This small webpage is kind of an educational "grab bag". I've tried to include information about a variety of topics of interest and discussion in education, but there are also a few "oddball" topics that may spark your interest. You can see the webpage is quite small now, but additions will be made to it from time to time.
As you well know, the internet provides nearly limitless opportunities to obtain information. As you search for information, some of what you'll find is accurate and valuable. Unfortunately, much of what you'll find is misleading, outdated or just plain wrong. For each topic below, I've tried to locate sources of up-to-date accurate information. I hope the information will be helpful to you, and I welcome your questions or reactions, as well as tips for additional sources of information.
Chuck Granger, Ph.D.
School Psychologist, Waterford Area Special Education Cooperative
TOPIC LIST (see information for each topic below)
10 Faulty Notions About Teaching and Learning that Hinder the Effectiveness of Special Education
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Concussion in High School Sports
Fluency... its critical role in learning
Free Professional Journals
Project Follow Through
"Research Based"...what does that really mean
Response to Intervention
Siblings of Students With Disabilities
Special Education Regulations and Procedures
Testing Accommodations for Students With Disabilities
Test Scores and What They Mean
10 Faulty Notions About Teaching and Learning That Hinder the Effectiveness of Special Education: The title of this article by William Heward says it all. It's worth a read.
Autism: Autism is one of those topics for which there is extensive information on the internet. A fair amount of this information is of questionable validity. There is a long list of alternative treatments and educational approaches that have little if any evidence of effectiveness. If you're interested in learning about autism, or about any Pervasive Developmental Disorder, I'd strongly recommend you focus on very reputable information sources. Two very good places to begin are the National Institute of Mental Health and the Yale Developmental Disabilities websites. The Organization for Autism Research also has some very good information.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: CHADD provides an impressive collection of good information about ADHD. It's an organization that has been around for years. You'll find information about common characteristics, treatment, and medication. It's a good place to begin collecting ADHD information.
LD Online is an excellent source of information about a variety of learning problems. This link takes you to their page regarding ADHD.This is a recently released parent guide to medication for ADHD.
Behavioral Issues/Challenges: Here's a source of very good, very practical information about working with students with behavioral challenges.
Classroom Interventions: Intervention Central is a terrific place to start when looking for novel ideas for classroom interventions. There are intervention ideas to address academic delays, behavioral problems, motivation problems, organizational weaknesses, and on and on...
Cognitve Psychology: Daniel Willingham has written a number of very good articles that show how the research done by cognitive psychologists can generate useful approaches for the classroom. A number of his articles can be seen here.
Concussion in High School Sports: It's very clear that coaches at any level, particularly grade and high school coaches, need to have a good understanding of the potential dangers associated with "getting your bell rung" (concussion). They also need to be able to recognize the signs of possible concussion and react accordingly. The Centers for Disease Control has an excellent "tool kit" that includes a video, posters, and written information about concussions. The toolkit is free of charge, and can be ordered here.
Direct Instruction: Direct Instruction and the Teaching of Early Reading is an excellent article that nicely describes DI, with a particular emphasis on reading. DI is, however, an instructional approach not strictly a reading program. It has been used at all grade levels, for various subjects, and as both core and remedial instruction.
Funnix: Funnix is a computer program that was designed to teach early reading skills (K-3rd grade). It has a Direct Instruction format, so it offers very systematic coverage of early skills, with good amounts of practice and review. Funnix can be used in the classroom with individual students or very small groups, but it is also often used by parents in home settings.
"Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" is a book designed to help parents teach their preschoolers how to read, using a Direct Instruction approach. It's definitely not a "cutesy" approach to reading. It's systematic phonics instruction but is, in my opinion, excellent. Obviously, parents will also want to do lots of fun reading with their kids, not just phonics instruction.
Reviews of the Effictiveness of DI: A phrase commonly heard in education is that "no program works for all children". That statement is almost certainly true. Unfortunately, that statement is sometimes used to justify the provision of a menu of programs, including those with minimal research support. Fortunately, there is increasing pressure in education to use programs and practices that are evidence based.
DI has a wealth of research support. A few examples include two large reviews done at Johns Hopkins University:
Elementary Comprehensive School Reform Models
Comprehensive School Reform and Achievement
Another large review of school reform models was done by the American Institutes for Research:
Guide to Schoolwide Reform
Finally, here is a very nice collection of videos regarding DI
Fluency: This article explains how fluency (not mere accuracy) is the better indicator of true mastery. This fits nicely with the recent upsurge in the use of Curriculum Based Measures to track academic progress.
Free Professional Journals: There is a long list of professional journals that are available online and, surprisingly, free. Many of these journals have been compiled by the Directory of Open Access Journals. It's a nice, no-cost way of keeping up to date in the field of education. Here's a similar service you can check into.
Graphic Organizers: A common recommendation for students who struggle with reading comprehension is the use of Graphic Organizers. If more basic skills (e.g. fluency) are not the cause for comprehension problems, graphic organizers is certainly worth a try. Here are some "ready-made" organizers that can be used as starters.
Homework Routines: There are countless sites on the internet devoted to helping kids and parents obtain information for homework completion. Just try a Google search on something like "math homework help" and up pops over twelve million sites. No shortage there!
Certainly the tougher part of homework completion, at least for some students, has to do with establishing productive homework routines and organizational strategies. I'll suggest a couple of good articles for parents on these topics. They are "Helping Your Child With Organizing and Study Skills" and "Organizing and Time Management Strategies". I actually had an entire list of articles on this topic, but my dog ate it.
IEP Meetings: Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings are the principal vehicle for identifying special education needs and developing instructional plans and sources of support to address those needs. Parents are often helped by getting some idea of how IEP meetings operate, so they know what to expect and are more comfortable in participating in the process. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's publication "An Introduction to Special Education" provides a good basic understanding of the process. There have been some recent changes to the regulations that govern IEP's, so some details in this publication will need to be revised. The basic description of the process remains accurate.
Mathematics: Applications and Misapplications of Cognitive Psychology to Mathematics Education: The "Math Wars" in education in the past decade have often focused on the role of "basic skills" versus "higher level conceptual and problem solving skills". This "Applications and Misapplications.." article sheds some light on this controversy, based in research from the field of cognitive psychology.
Basic Skills Versus Conceptual Understanding, A Bogus Dichotomy in Mathematics Education: This article explains the fallacy involved in thinking that educators must choose between skills and higher level thinking. The author explains how conceptual understanding can only be built upon a solid foundation of basic skills.
10 Myths About Math Education and Why You Shouldn't Believe Them is an short article that refutes the direction taken by some math curricula. The arguments presented in the article are fairly "pointed" but are worth knowing about and considering.
Math Facts: Some kids pick them up almost automatically, and some struggle year after year, possibly never knowing math facts well. When working with a child who is having difficulty, the most common mistake is to work on too many facts at once. It's far better to overlearn a few facts, and then GRADUALLY add others, overlearning those as well. The Mastering Math Facts program does a very nice job or organizing this gradual learning process. An alternative is a handheld calculator-sized device called the FlashMaster. Kids can practice math facts on the FlashMaster with little adult supervision, and some find it to be less threatening and a bit more fun. They still benefit from having an adult organize the session to make sure they getting the practice they need.
National Mathematics Advisory Panel: The final report from the NMAP provides wide ranging and import findings/recommendations about math instruction.
National Library of Virtual Manipulatives: This is an online collection of over 100 small programs that provide activities and visual representations to support the teaching of a variety of math concpets. The programs are free to use online, but the collection of programs can be purchased for a small fee as well.
Project Follow Through: This was the single largest educational study in history and, oddly, few have ever heard of it. Project Follow Through assessed the impact of different kinds of early elementary programs by following the participants of those programs over time. The bottom line? Programs that were highly structured, had clear objectives, and that regularly assessed student progress were far more effective than programs that were less structured, "child centered" and "open". Some interesting articles on Project Follow Through can be seen here.
Reading: National Reading Panel Report: The National Reading Panel undertook perhaps the most comprehensive review to date of research related to reading. This link takes you to the report that briefly summarizes their findings. Important findings are presented related to phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary development, and comprehension.
A project called "Children of the Code" put together a very compelling series of videos about the impact of illiteracy both on the individual and on society. The videos can be seen here.
Critical Elements of Classroom and Small Group Instruction Promote Reading Success in All Children: an article by Barbara Foorman and Joseph Torgesen that nicely summarizes essential elements of reading instruction.
Florida Center for Reading Research: This is one of the best sources of information about reading programs and reading research that you'll find. The conference presentations (Power Points) authored by FCRR staff, are particularly good.
DIBELS: The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills is one of the most widely used and powerful systems for screening and progress monitoring early reading skill development. Best of all is the cost...free.
What Reading Does for the Mind: This is an excellent article about the importance of reading in terms of vocabulary and background knowledge development and how these affect reading comprehension abilities.
The Usefulness of Brief Instruction in Reading Comprehension Strategies: This article nicely summarizes the overlap between listening comprehension and reading comprehension skills. It explains the benefit of brief instruction in reading comprehension strategies, but also explains that comprehension deficits (for fluent readers) are more likely tied to deficits in background knowlege, vocabulary, and language skills.
Reading Fluency: This is a nice article summarizing why fluency is important, particularly as it relates to comprehension.
Brain Function and Reading: Here's some good news about the impact of high quality reading intervention. The research mentioned here concerned young children who struggled with reading AND who showed on brain imaging to have brains that operate less effectively when trying to recognize words. High quality reading interventions not only improved reading skills. These interventions also resulted in more typical and effective brain functioning on reading tasks!
"Reasearch Based"...what does that really mean?: The term "Research Based" is heard more and more often in discussions about educational interventions. There is little agreement, however, on what actually qualifies a program or practice as being research based. The "Access Center" has developed a nice brief paper that helps to clarify this term.
Response to Intervention: It has become apparent that there are shortcomings in the process of identifying children with learning disabilities and arranging for them to receive the help they need. Perhaps the biggest shortcoming has been the time involved. When a significant discrepancy between a child's cognitive abilities and academic skills needs to exist prior to placement, important time is lost that should have been used to intensively address skill delays. It is hoped that a "Response to Intervention" approach will result in more timely and intensive treatment of academic skill delays. RTI is now required by special education law and will soon become common practice. Educational practitioners are just beginning the process of adjusting procedures using an RTI type approach. To learn more about RTI, there is an excellent list of articles at Wright's Law.
Two "must see" websites on RTI are the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring and the Research Institute on Progress Monitoring. Videos on RTI: As a child of the TV generation, sometimes I'd rather watch a video than read an article. Fortunately, there are some good web broadcasts on RTI. Here are a few...all rate "two thumbs up".
"History of Curriculum Based Measurement": An Interview with Stan Deno" Stan Deno was one of the original developers of CBM, and CBM has close ties with RTI.
"Learning Disabilities Summit of 2001": Look for the video of Frank Gresham. He talks about a treatment based approach to identifying LD.
"Monitoring Student Progress in the Classroom to Enhance Teaching, Planning and Student Learning": This is a presentation by Lynn Fuchs, one of the real leaders in CBM.
"The ABC's of Progress Monitoring in Reading": This is an excellent explanation of CBM and ways to track early reading skills using benchmark testing and progress monitoring.
Videos from the State of California Office of Education: These five videos are exceptionally good. Each runs a little over an hour, but is worth the time. Video titles include;
RtI, Why Now?: Presenters: Jack Fletcher, Dan Reschly, and W. David Tilly, III
What is RtI?: Amanda M. VanDerHeyden
Administrative Issues in RtI: Judy Elliott ( Long Beach Unified), George Batsche ( University of South Florida), and Roy Applegate (Glenn County SELPA)
Instruction in RtI Systems: Barbara Moore-Brown (Anaheim UHSD) and Wendy Robinson (Heartland AEA 11, Iowa)
RtI – Getting Started: Alnita Dunn (LAUSD), Margie McGlinchey ( Michigan), and Jan Mayer (CDE)
Siblings of Students With Disabilities: Oftentimes the siblings of students with disabilties fade into the background as families focus needed attention on the disabled child. These siblings have needs as well, and this website offers both information and sources of support.
Special Education Regulations and Procedures:
Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act: This is the federal legislation that drives special education in the U.S., and the most recent version was enacted in 2004. The resulting regulations can be found at that same link.
Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction has an amazing amount of information on their webpage about a wide variety of educational topics. Their page on special education can be found here. The "Parent" section is particularly useful for those who are just beginning to learn about special education. A good place to begin is the document "An Introduction to Special Education". You might also want to look at the "Special Education Acronyms/Terms". Parents, in particular, will want to read the "Special Education Rights for Parents and Children". They may also be interested in reading "Special Education in Plain English".
Suicide: The Suicide Prevention Resource Center is a good source of general information about suicide, including warning signs and how to respond to those warning signs. The information you see can be "customized" based on whether you're interested in the topic as a parent, a counselor etc.
Testing Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Some interesting research on the impact of accommodations made in large scale tests for special education students. Take a look here.
Test Scores and What They Mean: Reporting a child's test results often includes terminology unfamiliar to most people. Here are brief descriptions of terms like standard scores, percentiles, and grade equivalent scores.
Text Readers: Text Readers are computer programs that convert text into spoken words. They can be useful sources of support for reading text that can be displayed on a computer's screen.
ReadPlease: This is a text reader that comes in both a free version and a more powerful version for about $50. On the free version, the user is able to copy and paste text into the ReadPlease window, and the program will read it aloud. The speech is certainly mechanical sounding, but it's very understandable. One nice feature of ReadPlease is that it highlights words as it "reads". That means the student can easily follow along with the computer voice, and even engage in choral reading with the program.
Natural Reader: This is another text reader that has a free version and a version available for purchase. The "professional" version has more natural sounding voices, which likely makes it much more useable. That version costs about $30.
Electronic Books: There are various sources of electronic books (ebooks) on the internet, and each provides various programs that you can download to "read" ebooks. Increasing numbers of novels are available in ebook format, particularly the classics that students are typically assigned in high school.
WestEd has developed a website with numerous links for people interested in finding ebooks and textreaders. It's definitely worth a look.
Working Memory: Some have called Working Memory "the new IQ". It's beginning to look as if Working Memory is at least partially accountable for the academic struggles of many students. Here is a good place to begin learning about Working Memory and the kinds of supports needed by students with weak Working Memory skills.
Writing: Of the three "R's", writing has probably received the least attention, both from a research and from a program standpoint. Many educators struggle, therefore, when trying to design activities to help students with delays in writing skills. Here are a couple of resources to help in that regard. The first is an article posted on "LDOnline", that discusses how to reinvigorate students' enthusiasm for writing. The second is a very good webcast about essential writing skills.
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