Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

Dealing with Problems | Individualized Education Program – NCLD

In Uncategorized on Saturday, 30 March 2013 at 05:21

Dealing with Problems | Individualized Education Program – NCLD.


a visual guide to happiness and others…love this!

In General Psychology, Happiness, Mindfulness on Saturday, 30 March 2013 at 04:25


justices, do the right thing…

In Gay rights, Marriage Equality on Tuesday, 26 March 2013 at 06:23

the prop. 8 supreme court case starts today.  let’s all hope this is the road to marriage equality and we can truly be a country in which ALL citizens have the same rights (unless they CHOOSE to lose those rights, i.e. break the law, go to jail, lose your ‘right‘ to live a free life based on  ACTIONS, not who you love or who you are).  i just don’t understand why many americans today (i believe that number is just under half, depending on which statistics you read) believe that ANY group of people (in which two consenting, of-age adults wish to marry) should not have the same rights as those who are heterosexual and against the right for ALL adults to marry.  i am sure many of these same arguments were made when it was illegal for an african american and a caucasian to marry (yep…until the 1967 court case, interracial marriage was an ‘offense’ that could lead to jail time).  what an embarrassing time in our history and almost impossible to fathom happening now   because someone was born a certain race, they have or don’t have certain rights to marry who they love.  it sounds absolutely ridiculous now, but the majority of people did not think so then.  i can only hope that those who decry the institution of marriage will forever be ruined if we allow ALL people to marry will see that, in today’s society, marriage has already been made a joke by many and the divorce rate and rate of infidelity are steadily increasing.  brittney spears’ 55-hour marriage and kim kardahian’s 2-month fiasco certainly didn’t do that (see: http://jenmc.hubpages.com/hub/Celebrity-Couples-The-Shortest-Marriages-in-Hollywood) , nor all those that marry within minutes, days, weeks, etc. of meeting each other with no more ‘difficulty’ than possibly having to wait 24 hours from issuance of a marriage license, then quickly sober up and get divorced. and, in some states, you can marry your cousin and/or you can marry at the age of 16 as long as you are heterosexual…apparently, that’s ok.   we can’t blame the ‘demise’ of the institution of marriage on gay marriage  as that has already been done by heterosexual marriage.  in my opinion, marriage is nothing more than a nice ‘tradition’ but has already been made a mockery by our society and less meaningful, in general.  those of you that want to withhold certain rights from an entire group of people just because they love differently from you is just…wrong.  that’s what it comes down to…it’s just wrong.  to me, it’s a civil rights issue and we are supposed to be a country of freedom for all.  if we truly separate church and state, then the argument of ‘traditional values’ and the bible’s definition of marriage have NO PLACE in this debate.  it seems marriage (in many cases) is more about taxes, insurance benefits, etc. than the union of two people.  from my observations, many heterosexuals live together, raise families, etc. and choose NOT to get married.  and for for those in those situations that do get married, it is often ‘practical’ reasons such as finances, insurance, etc.  to me, marriage is a piece of paper that legally binds you to a person and gives certain ‘rights’ (like the ‘right’ to certain tax breaks or insurance) and should be available to all.  as for the religious aspect, that’s for the religions to determine-NOT the government.  once again, separation of church and state, people!!!  as far as the ‘piece of paper’ and the rights afforded to couples who marry,  those are constitutional and governmental rights and should be available for all.  it really seems a ridiculous argument to be having in 2013.  sigh…

5 Possible Outcomes of the Supreme Court Prop. 8 Case

By: Stephanie Condon

The Supreme Court has the opportunity to issue a landmark ruling this year as it considers the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

It could define same-sex marriage as a constitutionally-protected right, or it could uphold the ban, setting back the gay rights movement for years. The case, however, isn’t as simple as deciding whether or not same-sex couples have a right to get married.

After the Supreme Court today hears the oral arguments in the caseHollingsworth v. Perry, it has five options to choose from. Below is a rundown of the court’s choices — whether to protect the right to same-sex marriage in 50 states, zero states, nine states or one state. There’s one last option — to punt on the decision and dismiss the case.

Same-sex marriage constitutionally protected, nationwide

In the most dramatic ruling it could deliver, the Supreme Court could useHollingsworth v. Perry to rule that marriage is a constitutional right available to all Americans, gay or straight.

“The Prop. 8 case has the potential to be the Brown v. Board of Education for gay rights,” UCLA School of Law Prof. Adam Winkler told CBSNews.com.

“The question is whether the court’s ready to do that,” said Walter Dellinger, a partner at O’Melveny & Myers who served as U.S. Solicitor General during the Clinton administration.

Dellinger noted that such a ruling would be a much larger leap than the court has taken in the past in comparable cases. For instance, when the court issued the 1954 Brown v. Board ruling, there were 17 states that mandated segregation in schools. In its 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision, the court invalidated sodomy laws in 13 states. By contrast, there are currently 39 states with constitutional or statutory bans on same-sex marriage.

“There’s reason to think there may not be five votes” for that kind of ruling, Dellinger said.

While proponents of same-sex marriage — traditionally aligned with Democrats — want the court to make this move, Dellinger said, “Ironically, politically nothing would be better for the Republican Party than for the court to go all the way, which would take the issue out of politics.”

The issue has turned from a wedge issue for Democrats into a growing problem for Republicans as public support for same-sex marriage builds.

Same-sex marriage is not constitutionally protected

The second big move the court could make would be to declare that same-sex marriage is not protected by the Constitution.

Dellinger contends such a ruling could set the gay rights movement back as much as 25 years.

“You would then have a precedent that was a roadblock unless it was overturned,” he explained. “It wouldn’t stop the political movement, but the political movement is going to have some difficulty if the court rules against gay marriage because there are 30 states in one way or another that have entrenched a gay marriage ban into their constitutions, making it very hard to change the law.”

Stuart Gaffney, media director for the group Marriage Equality USA, couldn’t say specifically how his organization would respond to such a ruling but noted that in polls nationwide — and in California especially — the public is increasingly on their side. “We would certainly be keeping that in mind if we didn’t prevail at the high court,” he said.

Activists on both sides of the aisle, however, have noted the influence of the court.

“The Supreme Court decisions are not without effect in terms of the law but also in terms of legitimizing positions,” Chris Gacek, a senior fellow at the conservative Family Research Council, told CBSNews.com. “It’s like saying you have the weight of the Constitution behind you.”

Gacek and other conservatives have argued the court shouldn’t interfere on an issue decided directly by the voters, like Proposition 8.

No difference between marriage and civil unions

In a third alternative, the Supreme Court may decide that states that recognize same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships — and provide them with nearly the same benefits of marriage — cannot legitimately bar same-sex marriage.

That decision could extend same-sex marriage to California and eight other states that currently have comprehensive civil union or domestic partnership laws — and it’s the argument the Obama administration has put forward.

Winkler said it’s a “sensible argument” for the administration to argue because the government must justify its laws by pointing to valid public policy motivations.

“It’s hard to know what government interests are served by denying gay people marriage when you allow them the rights of marriage,” Winkler explained. “The only thing those civil union states do is deny them the right to say they’re married — what government interest could there be in that?”

At the same time, Winkler said it could be a “dangerous” argument from the perspective of gay rights proponents in one sense — “It could discourage other states from granting civil unions,” he explained.

Same-sex marriage is still a hotly-debated issue on the state level, of course — Colorado just this month legalized civil unions, after a years-long debate on the issue. In 2006, the state passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

“Think of what will play out the next time a state like Colorado wants to extend civil unions but not marriage,” Winkler said. If the court takes this third option, “there won’t be that middle ground available.”

Same-sex marriage protected in California

In a fourth option, the Supreme Court ruling could apply just to California because of the case’s unique circumstances.

Voters in California passed Proposition 8, the ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage, in 2008 — after the California Supreme Court had granted same-sex couples the right to marry. That put California voters in the unique position of taking away rights granted by the court. After Prop. 8 passed, a federal court followed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said Prop. 8 was unconstitutional.

While this option wouldn’t extend same-sex marriage across the country, gay rights activists would still consider it a victory.

“Obviously, we believe that every American is entitled to the most basic freedom to marry the person they love,” Gaffney said. “While we’re very hopeful for a landmark ruling, we’re also aware there are very specific circumstances in California. Proposition 8 divided California into marriage haves and have-nots… That is a wrong that needs to be undone.”

Gaffney said that he and his husband, legally married in California, “experienced a feeling no American should have to go through… People’s marriages were put up for a popular vote.”

Given California’s large population, a ruling in favor of marriage equality there would “truly tip the balance for the freedom to marry nationwide,” he added.

Dismiss the case on procedural grounds

In yet another option, the court could decide the proponents of Proposition 8 have no standing in court and dismiss the case entirely.

Normally, California’s governor and attorney general would defend a state law in court. In this case, however, they declined to appeal the district court ruling striking down Proposition 8. Instead, supporters of Proposition 8 took it upon themselves to appeal.

Dellinger filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the Proposition 8 supporters have no legitimate reason to be in court.

“In my view, the California case was over when the two couples won their victory in the trial court, which held that they were entitled to marriage licenses,” Dellinger said. “The Supreme Court only hears cases when there are parties who have an adverse interest coming before the court… The people who sponsored the referendum do not, in my view, have a dog in that fight.”

Some gay rights advocates agree with that argument.

“To some observers it could feel like a technicality, but I believe the standing issue speaks to a fundamental point of law and principle of marriage equality,” Gaffney said. “You have to have been harmed to continue a lawsuit. Had the other side been harmed, that would have entitled them to make an appeal in this case. Marriage equality means the world to same-sex couples and their families and loved ones, and it doesn’t take away from anyone else.”

If the Supreme Court agrees that the Proposition 8 supporters have no standing, it’s not exactly clear at this point what the practical impact would be, Dellinger said. “The effect in California, whether it applies statewide and everybody in the state can get marriage licenses, or whether it applies to these two couples or two counties, all that is to be resolved subsequent to the decision in this case,” he said.

Retrieved from: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57576243/5-possible-outcomes-of-the-supreme-court-prop-8-case/

Autism at School: DSM or IDEA

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, School Psychology, Special Education on Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 08:10

Autism at School: DSM or IDEA

More children than ever before are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now estimates that 1 in 88 eight year-old children has an ASD. This dramatic increase in the prevalence of children with ASD over the past decade, together with the clear benefits of early intervention, have created a need for schools to identify children who may have an autism spectrum condition. It is not unusual for children with milder forms of autism to go undiagnosed until well after entering school. In fact, research indicates that only three percent of children with ASD are identified solely by non-school resources. As a result, school professionals are now more likely to be asked to participate in the screening and identification of children with ASD than at any other time in the past.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV) are the two major systems used to diagnose and classify children with ASD. The DSM-IV is considered the primary authority in the fields of psychiatric and psychological (clinical) diagnoses, while IDEA is the authority with regard to eligibility decisions for special education. The DSM-IV was developed by clinicians as a diagnostic and classification system for both childhood and adult psychiatric disorders. The IDEA is not a diagnostic system per se, but rather federal legislation designed to ensure the appropriate education of children with special educational needs in our public schools. Unlike the DSM-IV, IDEA specifies categories of ‘‘disabilities’’ to determine eligibility for special educational services. The definitions of these categories (there are 13), including autism, are the most widely used classification system in our schools. According to IDEA regulations, the definition of autism is as follows:

(c)(1)(i) Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance, as defined in this section.

(ii) A child who manifests the characteristics of ‘‘autism’’ after age 3 could be diagnosed as having ‘‘autism’’ if the criteria in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section are satisfied.
This educational definition is considered sufficiently broad and operationally acceptable to accommodate both the clinical and educational descriptions of autism and related disorders.

While the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria are professionally helpful, they are neither legally required nor sufficient for determining educational placement. It is state and federal education codes and regulations (not DSM IV-TR) that drive classification and eligibility decisions. Thus, school professionals must ensure that children meet the criteria for autism as outlined by IDEA and may use the DSM-IV to the extent that the diagnostic criteria include the same core behaviors (e.g., difficulties with social interaction, difficulties with communication, and the frequent exhibition of repetitive behaviors or circumscribed interests). Of course, all professionals, whether clinical or school, should have the appropriate training and background related to the diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders. The identification of autism should be made by a professional team using multiple sources of information, including, but not limited to an interdisciplinary assessment of social behavior, language and communication, adaptive behavior, motor skills, sensory issues, and cognitive functioning to help with intervention planning and determining eligibility for special educational services.

Legal and special education experts recommend the following guidelines to help school districts meet the requirements for providing legally and educationally appropriate programs and services to students with ASD.

1. School districts should ensure that the IEP process follows the procedural requirements of IDEA. This includes actively involving parents in the IEP process and adhering to the time frame requirements for assessment and developing and implementing the student’s IEP. Moreover, parents must be notified of their due process rights. It’s important to recognize that parent-professional communication and collaboration are key components for making educational and program decisions.

2. School districts should make certain that comprehensive, individualized evaluations are completed by school professionals who have knowledge, experience, and expertise in ASD. If qualified personnel are not available, school districts should provide the appropriate training or retain the services of a consultant.

3. School districts should develop IEPs based on the child’s unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Goals for a child with ASD commonly include the areas of communication, social behavior, adaptive skills, challenging behavior, and academic and functional skills. The IEP must address appropriate instructional and curricular modifications, together with related services such as counseling, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, physical therapy and transportation needs. Evidence-based instructional strategies should also be adopted to ensure that the IEP is implemented appropriately.

4. School districts should assure that progress monitoring of students with ASD is completed at specified intervals by an interdisciplinary team of professionals who have a knowledge base and experience in autism. This includes collecting evidence-based data to document progress towards achieving IEP goals and to assess program effectiveness.

5. School districts should make every effort to place students in integrated settings to maximize interaction with non-disabled peers. Inclusion with typically developing students is important for a child with ASD as peers provide the best models for language and social skills. However, inclusive education alone is insufficient, evidence-based intervention and training is also necessary to address specific skill deficits. Although the least restrictive environment (LRE) provision of IDEA requires that efforts be made to educate students with special needs in less restrictive settings, IDEA also recognizes that some students may require a more comprehensive program to provide FAPE.

6. School districts should provide on-going training and education in ASD for both parents and professionals. Professionals who are trained in specific methodology and techniques will be most effective in providing the appropriate services and in modifying curriculum based upon the unique needs of the individual child.

References and further reading:

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. Pub. L. No. 108-446, 108th Congress, 2nd Session. (2004).

Mandlawitz, M. R. (2002). The impact of the legal system on educational programming for young children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32, 495-508.

National Research Council (2001). Educating children with autism. Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism. C. Lord & J. P. McGee (Eds). Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Twachtman-Cullen, D., & Twachtman-Bassett, J. (2011). The IEP from A to Z: How to create meaningful and measurable goals and objectives. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wilkinson, L. A. (2010). Best practice in special needs education. In L. A. Wilkinson, A best practice guide to assessment and intervention for autism and Asperger syndrome in schools (pp. 127-146). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2ndEdition (2007).

Yell, M. L., Katsiyannis, A, Drasgow, E, & Herbst, M. (2003). Developing legally correct and educationally appropriate programs for students with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 18, 182-191.

Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD is the author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/autism-at-school-dsm-or-idea?goback=%2Egde_2191897_member_225669404

22 Things Happy People Do Differently

In Fitness/Health, Happiness, Meditation on Saturday, 23 March 2013 at 15:58

22 Things Happy People Do Differently.

autism rate now 1 in 50…

In Autism Spectrum Disorders on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 at 07:17


How The World Uses Social Media

In Uncategorized on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 15:59

How The World Uses Social Media.

increase in adhd diagnoses…

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, School Psychology, Special Education on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 11:59

is this because of increased awareness, greater recognition of adhd, better diagnostics and screening, etc. or is it because of the heightened demands put upon all of us in today’s society?  i do believe adhd is a very real diagnosis and can have deleterious effects on the brain if left untreated.  what i can tell you i do see in my work as a school psychologist is some children with a true disability and some very savvy parents (or kids, in some instances) who know that a stimulant will help them meet any increased demands and are able to “get” an adhd diagnosis by going to certain doctors or knowing what to say and what “symptoms” to report.  a comprehensive adhd diagnosis is not an easy one to make and takes way more than a ten-minute session with a pediatrician.  this is one of the reasons i am such a proponent of  the advancements in genome wide association studies, neuroanatomy, neurobiology, etc. that can effectively show differences between a brain with adhd and a brain without adhd, thus, one day hopefully being able to diagnose with more than parent and self-report and some testing.  and, with the large population of untreated adhd or late-diagnosed adhd (so, no treatment until adulthood), we are able to see the effects of no treatment, then getting proper treatment.  

i am a fan of a new book on adhd by cecil reynolds, et al.  it is a comprehensive look at adhd by one of the foremost neuropsychologists today.  http://www.amazon.com/Energetic-Brain-Understanding-Managing-ADHD/dp/0470615168 

there’s my two-cents.  here is the article:

Study Suggests Increased Rate of Diagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder at Health Plan


Media Advisory: To contact study author Darios Getahun, M.D., Ph.D., call Sandra Hernandez-Millett at 626-405-5384 or email sandra.d.hernandez-millett@kp.org or call Vincent Staupe at 415-318-4386 or email vstaupe@golinharris.com.

CHICAGO – A study of medical records at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health plan suggests the rate of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis increased from 2001 to 2010, according to a report published Online First by JAMA Pediatrics, a JAMA Network publication.

ADHD is one of the most common chronic childhood psychiatric disorders, affecting 4 percent to 12 percent of all school-aged children and persisting into adolescence and adulthood in about 66 percent to 85 percent of affected children. The origin of ADHD is not fully understood, but some emerging evidence suggests that both genetic and environmental factors play important roles, the authors write in the study background.

Darios Getahun, M.D., Ph.D., of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Medical Group, Pasadena, Calif., and colleagues used patient medical records to examine trends in the diagnosis of ADHD in all children who received care at Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC) from January 2001 through December 2010. Of the 842,830 children cared for during that time, 39,200 (4.9 percent) had a diagnosis of ADHD.

“The findings suggest that the rate of ADHD diagnosis among children in the health plan notably has increased over time. We observed disproportionately high ADHD diagnosis rates among white children and notable increases among black girls,” according to the study.

The rates of ADHD diagnosis were 2.5 percent in 2001 and 3.1 percent in 2010, a relative increase of 24 percent. From 2001 to 2010, the rate increased among whites (4.7 percent to 5.6 percent); blacks (2.6 percent to 4.1 percent); and Hispanics (1.7 percent to 2.5 percent). Rates for Asian/Pacific Islanders remained unchanged over time, according to study results.

Boys also were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls, but the study results suggest that the sex gap for black children may be closing over time. Children who live in high-income households ($70,000 or more) also were at an increased risk of diagnosis, according to the results.

(JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 21, 2013. doi:10.1001/2013.jamapediatrics.401. Available pre-embargo to the media at http://media.jamanetwork.com.)

Retrieved from: http://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/study-suggests-increased-rate-of-diagnosis-of-attention-deficithyperactivity-disorder-at-health-plan/

national resolution on high-stakes testing

In Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 08:58

please go to their page and sign if you are so inclined…



This resolution is modeled on the resolution passed by more than 360 Texas school boards as of April 23, 2012. [As of Oct. 2, 2012, endorsed by 819 boards representing 80% of the districts and 88% of the students.] It was written by Advancement Project;Asian American Legal Defense and Education FundFairTestForum for Education and DemocracyMecklenburgACTSDeborah MeierNAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.National Education AssociationNew York Performance Standards Consortium; Tracy Novick; Parents Across AmericaParents United for Responsible Education – ChicagoDiane RavitchRace to NowhereTime Out From Testing; andUnited Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.

We encourage organizations and individuals to publicly endorse it. Organizations should modify it as needed for their local circumstances while also endorsing this national version.

WHEREAS, our nation’s future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthens the nation’s social and economic well-being; and

WHEREAS, our nation’s school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing, in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators and schools; and

WHEREAS, the over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and

WHEREAS, the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate; and

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects for students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the culture and structure of the systems in which students learn must change in order to foster engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought and breadth of knowledge for students; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the governor, state legislature and state education boards and administrators to reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools; and

RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the U.S. Congress and Administration to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act,” reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability, and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators.

Retrieved from: http://timeoutfromtesting.org/nationalresolution/

are test companies trying to capitalize on the adoption of the common core?

In Common Core, Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 08:53

 i like pearson and use their testing products as a school psychologist, but when you have the company making the “high stakes tests AND making the review materials, it appears to be a conflict of interest, imo.  would you trust only studies from a drug company that makes the drug or would you try to find other, independent studies?  maybe it’s not the same, but once again, showing the bias of the reformers and their abject acceptance of the common core despite the data coming out that is NOT favorable in the states where it was piloted.

Testing company Pearson spending millions to influence schools


In America’s schools, the barrage of standardized testing kids have come under is overwhelming. From the Iowa Test of Basic Standards (ITBS) to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the alphabet soup of bubble-in tests that fill our schools isprovoking a backlash from educators and parents who think kids are over-tested and denied the opportunities for more meaningful projects, essays, and group learning.

Increasingly, school districts themselves are revolting against the testing obsession. As of last month, “232 Texas school districts have adopted resolutions” calling for a re-evaluation of the test-centered education provided to their students.

This backlash threatens an increasingly powerful special interest: the companies that make the tests and other electronic software used in classrooms. One of the largest of these corporations is Pearson Education, Inc.

Education researcher Ken Libby dug through the records and found that Pearson is spending big on lobbying in four critical states — New York, California, Texas, and Florida. Here’s a small table he made laying out the millions Pearson is spending (i could not copy the graphic for just pearson, so i am including mcgraw hill in the table):



As America confronts its addiction to high-stakes testing, it appears that the companies benefiting from it are willing to spend generously in order to keep taxpayer dollars flowing their way.

UPDATE: An original version of this post had the totals for Florida twice as high as they actually are, because of a reporting requirement in the state that requires totals to be delivered to both executive and legislative branches. A lobbyist for Pearson in Florida, Steve Ulhfelder, pointed this out to us. We apologize for the earlier error.

Retrieved from: http://www.republicreport.org/2012/testing-company-pearson-spending-millions-to-influence-schools/



Principal: ‘I was naïve about Common Core.’

In Common Core, Education, Education advocacy, Pedagogy, School reform on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 11:56

Principal: ‘I was naïve about Common Core.’

Here’s a powerful piece about how an award-winning principal went from being a Common Core supporter to an opponent. This was written by Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in New York. She was named the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is one of the co-authors of the principals’ letter against evaluating teachers by student test scores, which has been signed by 1,535 New York principals.

By Carol Burris

When I first read about the Common Core State Standards, I cheered.  I believe that our schools should teach all students (except for those who have severe learning disabilities), the skills, habits and knowledge that they need to be successful in post secondary education. That doesn’t mean that every teenager must be prepared to enter Harvard, but it does mean that every young adult, with few exceptions, should at least be prepared to enter their local community college. That is how we give students a real choice.

I even co-authored a book, “Opening the Common Core,” on how to help schools meet that goal.  It is a book about rich curriculum and equitable teaching practices, not about testing and sanctions. We wrote it because we thought that the Common Core would be a student-centered reform based on principles of equity.

I confess that I was naïve. I should have known in an age in which standardized tests direct teaching and learning, that the standards themselves would quickly become operationalized by tests. Testing, coupled with the evaluation of teachers by scores, is driving its implementation. The promise of the Common Core is dying and teaching and learning are being distorted.  The well that should sustain the Core has been poisoned.

I hear about those distortions every day.  Many of the teachers in my high school are also the parents of young children.  They come into my office with horror stories regarding the incessant pre-testing, testing and test prep that is taking place in their own children’s classrooms.  Last month, a colleague gave me a multiple-choice quiz taken by his seven-year old son during music.  Here is a question:


Kings and queens COMMISSIONED Mozart to write symphonies for celebrations and ceremonies. What does COMMISSION mean?

  1. to force someone to do work against his or her will
  2. to divide a piece of music into different movements
  3. to perform a long song accompanied by an orchestra
  4. to pay someone to create artwork or a piece of music

Whether or not learning the word ‘commission’ is appropriate for second graders could be debated—I personally think it is a bit over the top.  What is of deeper concern, however, is that during a time when 7 year olds should be listening to and making music, they are instead taking a vocabulary quiz.

I think that the reason for the quiz is evident to anyone who has been following the reform debate.  The Common Core places an extraordinary emphasis on vocabulary development. Probably, the music teacher believes she must do her part in test prep. More than likely she is being evaluated in part by the English Language Arts test scores of the building. Teachers are engaged in practices like these because they are pressured and afraid, not because they think the assessments are educationally sound. Their principals are pressured and nervous about their own scores and the school’s scores. Guaranteed, every child in the class feels that pressure and trepidation as well.

An English teacher in my building came to me with a ‘reading test’ that her third grader took. Her daughter did poorly on the test.  As both a mother and an English teacher she knew that the difficulty of the passage and the questions were way over grade level.  Her daughter, who is an excellent reader, was crushed.  She and I looked on the side of the copy of the quiz and found the word “Pearson.” The school, responding to pressure from New York State, had purchased test prep materials from the company that makes the exam for the state.

I am troubled that a company that has a multi-million dollar contract to create tests for the state should also be able to profit from producing test prep materials. I am even more deeply troubled that this wonderful little girl, whom I have known since she was born, is being subject to this distortion of what her primary education should be.

There are so many stories that I could tell–the story of my guidance counselor’s sixth-grade, learning disabled child who feels like a failure due to constant testing, a principal of an elementary school who is furious with having to use to use a book he deems inappropriate for third graders because his district bought the State Education Department approved common core curriculum, and the frustration of math teachers due to the ever-changing rules regarding the use of calculators on the tests.  And all of this is mixed with the toxic fear that comes from knowing you will be evaluated by test results and that “your score” will be known to any of your parents who ask.

When state education officials chide, “Don’t drill for the test, it does not work”, teachers laugh. Of course test prep works. Every parent who has ever paid hundreds of dollars forSAT prep knows it works —but no parent is foolish enough to think that the average 56 point ‘coaching’ jump in an SAT score means that their child is more “college ready.”

Test scores are a rough proxy for learning. Tests imperfectly examine selected domains of skills, so that we can infer what students know. Real learning occurs in the mind of the learner when she makes connections with prior learning, makes meaning, and retains that knowledge in order to create additional meaning from new information.  In short, with tests we see traces of learning, not learning itself.

What occurs in a “data driven”, high-stakes learning environment is that the full domain of what should be learned narrows to those items tested.  The Common Core, for example, wants students to grow in five skill areas in English Language Arts — reading, writing, speaking, listening and collaboration. But the Common Core tests will only measure reading and writing.  Parents can expect that the other three will be neglected as teachers frantically try to prepare students for the difficult and high-stakes tests.  What gets measured gets done, and make no mistake: “reformers” understand that full well.  In fact, they count on it. They see data, not children.  For the corporate reformers, test data constitute the bottom-line profits that they watch.

There is no one more knowledgeable about school change and systemic reforms than Michael Fullan.  He is a renowned international authority on school reform, having been actively engaged in both its implementation as well in the analysis of reform results.  I had the pleasure of listening to him this week at the Long Island ASCD spring conference.

Fullan told us that the present reforms are led by the wrong drivers of change — individual accountability of teachers, linked to test scores and punishment, cannot be successful in transforming schools.  He told us that the Common Core standards will fall of their own weight because standards and assessments, rather than curriculum and instruction are driving the Common Core.  He explained that the right driver of school change is capacity building.  Data should be used as a strategy for improvement, not for accountability purposes.  The Common Core is a powerful tool, but it is being implemented using the wrong drivers.

Fullan helped to successfully lead the transformation of schools in Ontario, Canada, and he has tried to influence our national conversation, but his advice has been shunned.  I will close with a final quote from Fullan and let readers draw their own conclusions:

A fool with a tool is still a fool.  A fool with a powerful tool is a dangerous fool.

Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/03/04/principal-i-was-naive-about-common-core/

preschoolers and adhd…a six-year follow up.

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Neuropsychology, Psychiatry on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 at 16:04


“ADHD in preschoolers is a relatively stable diagnosis over a 6-year period. The course is generally chronic, with high symptom severity and impairment, in very young children with moderate-to-severe ADHD, despite treatment with medication. Development of more effective ADHD intervention strategies is needed for this age group.”

Christie Signs a Bill into Law That Will Create Consistency in Special Education Programming

In Education, Education advocacy, Education Law, School reform, Special Education on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 10:30

Christie Signs a Bill into Law That Will Create Consistency in Special Education Programming.

california teachers sue over workload.

In Education, Education advocacy, Education Law, Special Education on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 08:18

thanks for the article, greg branch!


good article.

In Education advocacy, Politics, School reform, Special Education on Friday, 1 March 2013 at 15:13


arne…friend or foe?

In Education, Education advocacy, Politics, School reform, Special Education on Friday, 1 March 2013 at 15:08


genes, genes…

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, Autism Spectrum Disorders, General Psychology, Genes, Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, Personality Disorders, Psychiatry on Friday, 1 March 2013 at 06:15

i love gwas and really feel it will continue to broaden our understanding of psychiatric illnesses and, hopefully, lead to better treatment options.

Five Major Psychiatric Disorders Genetically Linked

By: Caroline Cassels

In the largest genetic study of psychiatric illness to date, scientists have discovered genetic links between 5 major psychiatric disorders.

Investigators from the Cross-Disorder Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium have found that autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder (BD), major depressive disorder (MDD), and schizophrenia share common genetic risk factors.

Specifically, the results of the genome-wide association study (GWAS) reveal single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 2 genes —CACNA1C and CACNB2 — both of which are involved in the balance of calcium in brain cells, are implicated in several of these disorders, and could provide a potential target for new treatments.

“This analysis provides the first genome-wide evidence that individual and aggregate molecular genetic risk factors are shared between 5 childhood-onset or adult-onset psychiatric disorders that are treated as distinct categories in clinical practice,” study investigator Jordan Smoller, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, said in a release.

The study was published online February 28 in the Lancet.

Potential Therapeutic Target

The researchers note that findings from family and twin studies suggest that genetic risks for psychiatric disorders do not always map to current diagnostic categories and that “doubt remains about the boundaries between the syndromes and the disorders that have overlapping foundations or different variants of one underlying disease.”

“The pathogenic mechanisms of psychiatric disorders are largely unknown, so diagnostic boundaries are difficult to define. Genetic risk factors are important in the causation of all major psychiatric disorders, and genetic strategies are widely used to assess potential overlaps,” the investigators write.

The aim of the study was to identify specific variants underlying genetic effects shared between 5 major psychiatric disorders: ASD, ADHD, BD, MDD, and schizophrenia.

The researchers analyzed genome-wide SNP data for the 5 disorders in 33,332 cases and 27,888 control participants of European ancestry. They identified 4 risk loci that have significant and overlapping links with all 5 diseases. These included regions on chromosomes 3p21 and 10q24, and SNPs in the gene CACNA1C,which has previously been linked to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and in theCACNB2 gene.

Polygenic risk scores confirmed cross-disorder effects, most strongly between adult-onset disorders BD and MDD and schizophrenia. Further pathway analysis corroborated that calcium channel activity could play an important role in the development of all 5 disorders.

“Significant progress has been made in understanding the genetic risk factors underlying psychiatric disorders. Our results provide new evidence that may inform a move beyond descriptive syndromes in psychiatry and towards classification based on underlying causes.

“These findings are particularly relevant in view of the imminent revision of classifications in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases,” said Dr. Smoller.

The investigators add that the study results “implicate a specific biological pathway — voltage-gated calcium-channel signalling — as a contributor to the pathogenesis of several psychiatric disorders, and support the potential of this pathway as a therapeutic target for psychiatric disease.”

In an accompanying editorial, Alessandro Serretti, MD, PhD, and Chiara Fabbri, MD, from the University of Bologna, Italy, assert that “the main innovative contribution of the present study is the combination of qualitative and quantitative analyses of the shared genetic features associated with vulnerability of these 5 disorders.”

They add, “the present study might contribute to future nosographic systems, which could be based not only on statistically determined clinical categories, but also on biological pathogenic factors that are pivotal to the identification of suitable treatments.”

The authors and editorialists have reported no relevant financial relationships.

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/779979?src=nl_topic

Identification of risk loci with shared effects on five major psychiatric disorders: a genome-wide analysis


Findings from family and twin studies suggest that genetic contributions to psychiatric disorders do not in all cases map to present diagnostic categories. We aimed to identify specific variants underlying genetic effects shared between the five disorders in the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium: autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia.


We analysed genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data for the five disorders in 33 332 cases and 27 888 controls of European ancestory. To characterise allelic effects on each disorder, we applied a multinomial logistic regression procedure with model selection to identify the best-fitting model of relations between genotype and phenotype. We examined cross-disorder effects of genome-wide significant loci previously identified for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and used polygenic risk-score analysis to examine such effects from a broader set of common variants. We undertook pathway analyses to establish the biological associations underlying genetic overlap for the five disorders. We used enrichment analysis of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) data to assess whether SNPs with cross-disorder association were enriched for regulatory SNPs in post-mortem brain-tissue samples.


SNPs at four loci surpassed the cutoff for genome-wide significance (p<5×10−8) in the primary analysis: regions on chromosomes 3p21 and 10q24, and SNPs within two L-type voltage-gated calcium channel subunits, CACNA1C and CACNB2. Model selection analysis supported effects of these loci for several disorders. Loci previously associated with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia had variable diagnostic specificity. Polygenic risk scores showed cross-disorder associations, notably between adult-onset disorders. Pathway analysis supported a role for calcium channel signalling genes for all five disorders. Finally, SNPs with evidence of cross-disorder association were enriched for brain eQTL markers.


Our findings show that specific SNPs are associated with a range of psychiatric disorders of childhood onset or adult onset. In particular, variation in calcium-channel activity genes seems to have pleiotropic effects on psychopathology. These results provide evidence relevant to the goal of moving beyond descriptive syndromes in psychiatry, and towards a nosology informed by disease cause.

Funding-National Institute of Mental Health.

Retrieved from: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)62129-1/abstract

Identification of risk loci with shared effects on five major psychiatric disorders: a genome-wide analysis
Cross-Disorder Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium
The Lancet – 28 February 2013
DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)62129-1

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