Archive for March, 2011


Education Needs To Be Reformed

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Warns of Failures by 2014!

This a.m. I was reading The Register over a cup of coffee when I came across this timely article.   When the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, admits we need to make a change in education it gets my full attention.  

Los Angeles.  U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan said Tuesday, March 22, that virtually every school in Los Angeles Unified School District will be classified as failing by 2014 if the “No Child Left Behind Act” is not urgently reformed.

Duncan told about 1200 educators and business leaders at a United Way education summit that the law now is too focused on test scores on core subjects.  That, he said, has led to a narrow focuses on those subjects at the expense of the well-rounded education every child needs.  “No Child Left Behind is fundamentally broken,” he said.   “We want to fix it before we go back to school this fall.” 

Duncan, the former head of Chicago’s public schools, and presently the Secretary of Education stationed in Washington, D.C., said he wants the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act to measure schools on year-to-year improvement, rather than on a specific test score.  “We should be far more concerned about levels of growth than proficiency,” he said.  On other topics, the secretary came down hard on the dismal performance of LAUSD, the nation’s second-largest school district.  Although he said district leaders are working to fix underachieving schools, he said the 50 percent graduation rate is the lowest among big-city districts.  “L.A. is a world-class city but does not have world-class schools,” he said.  

I Believe Every Parent Agrees We Need To Change How We Educate Our Students and Hire our Teachers

I believe we are doing the wrong kind of testing.   We ought to be testing all students at the entry level, grade 1 and again prior to middle school and prior to high school.   The purpose of this testing is to find out 2 things:
• The interests of the student, and;
• How the student learns best.

The interests of each student needs to be nurtured throughout school.   The individual interest may change as a student moves through the grades all the way into college and sometimes beyond.  And, then we need to think about forced change as a result of economy changes.  The student needs to be ready for a change if needed.  The one thing that remains constant is ….change.   We have to teach flexibility and adaptability throughout life.  In other words, college students need to major in two topics to be ready for a change if and when needed. 

We need to respect the fact that not all students belong in college.   There are other ways to become educated in life that does not require a degree but can be as resourceful to an individual.
It seems college may prepare some students to make a living but there are other resources out there that can provide a lifestyle.  There is a difference.

We need to find out how a student learns best.   I’ve talked about this throughout my blogs.   Some students learn better by auditory, meaning some students learn better by listening.   Others learn more using the visual sense, meaning s/he learns more by reading.   Still others need both.  In fact, most remember more when they have both.  It is the auditory system that puts it in the memory box.   That’s why it’s important to teach children to read aloud when they study.  They need a quiet room to do that without disturbances.

Remember the days we learned to read by reading.   It all starts when a parent reads to a small child before putting them to bed or taking them to libraries where they have readers who read to children.  In school, I can remember how I learned to read.

The teacher gave an assignment for reading homework.  The child was to read the chapter at home, look up words in the dictionary, write the meaning of the word and proceed to the end of the chapter.  This required having a parent assist the child in understanding what the story was about and to encourage vocabulary development.   The child was to try to use the new word 3 times in discussion at home and thereafter.

The next day, the teacher had  each student in the classroom read one paragraph or parts of a paragraph…aloud, in the chapter for the day, while all students listened and followed along.   Note here… that it is not the teacher who is reading to the students…it is the students who read.  And, they read aloud.   That is the key.  If a child came upon a word s/he couldn’t pronounce s/he could ask for teacher support and keep reading.  

The teacher did not start with the student sitting in the front row and then go down the line.    Instead, the teacher would call on different students unexpectedly to read.   This kept the students on their toes because they didn’t know when their name would be called and, as a result, they had to be ready to stand up and perform when called upon.   That is how a teacher teaches reading.   A student may never learn to read if s/he doesn’t read and/or read aloud in private.  Reading aloud is the best way to learn to read because it involves both the visual and the auditory system.   When we involve both it is easier to remember what one is reading.

When I was teaching adult education I had many interesting adult students in my classroom.   This particular student, Marion Cox, actually Dr. Marion Cox, was the psychologist for the development of Dick and Jane Reading Series.     That is a series of reading books back in the 1940’s and maybe beyond that decade.   She was now in her ’80’s.  What an interesting woman!

I asked her to talk about those books because they were banned in later years.  I wanted to hear it from her as to how these books were created and why were they banned later.   Dr. Cox had a crystal clear memory as she spoke and I gave her the floor.  She said when these books were created, they were pictures only.   There were no words at the bottom of the page.   They were to be used in kindergarten and first grade only at that time.  

The teacher was to sit down on a small stool with the children gathered around in front of her on a rug on the floor.   She would show the picture to the children and ask them what they think is happening in the picture.   Then one by one each child made his/her statement about what s/he thought was happening on that page.  The children used their own words. 

The teacher would write those words spoken by each child on a separate sheet of paper with the name of the child at the top.   At the end of the story she had several different stories written in the words of the different children.  Then she would let each child read his/her own story what s/he actually said using his/her own words presented as his/her own interpretation of the picture.  

The teacher then asked each child what s/he wanted the title of the story to be and each child created their own title by discussion of their story with the teacher.   This taught socialization and communication skills.   Then came the writing session.  Each child could copy all the words they used in their own handwriting…printing.   And, each child was allowed to keep his/her own hand written story they told.   They could take it home and read it to the parents.   That was how the books were supposed to be used. In doing so, it was the children who actually created the story by looking at the picture.    And, each story took a different direction and they created a different title.  

I’m sure each child could not wait to get home and tell his/her parents about this wonderful experience in writing their own book and it had a title.   Not only that….s/he could read the story to his/her parent. 

Now let’s break this apart and look at what the children learned:
• The children created their own story by looking at a picture and talking about what s/he saw in the picture;
• The children learned to respect their own ideas by using their own imagination;
• The children learned to print their own words used in the story;
• The children learned to complete the project by adding a title to the story; and,
• It taught them pride. 

I can visualize the excitement was blowing through the roof with this method of teaching.   And, the most important thing it did was it kept the children’s attention because each child was a part of the development of his/her own story.   The child felt important.  S/he wrote a story s/he could read in his/her own words!   And, Dr. Cox added one more thing:   She had each child write the publishing date on the first page with the title. 

That idea was beyond brilliant!

We then asked, when did the words come about at the bottom of the page and she said they were later added by a writer who felt the book was not complete without words.   The writer who added the words was trying to teach by rote which is why the words were repeated often throughout the books.  Learning by rote is part of learning to read, however.   But do we need one word repeated 5 times in a row?    “Run, Jane, run.  Run. Run. Run.”   There are only 2 different words used in that entire statement to show Jane was running.  

The writer who added the words suggested a teacher read the book to the children.   It didn’t create an interest, the children were no longer writing the story, they were no longer involved and it destroyed the children’s creativity.  There was no more excitement. And the books were banned because of boredom.  In thinking about this, I don’t see the children running home to show the parents how excited they were with the project for the day.  It was passive teaching.  Easy for the teacher.  Nothing learned and nothing gained.

Dr. Cox is the kind of teachers we need in our schools today.   Unfortunately, we have too many teachers like the one who killed these books!  That, in itself, should explain the difference between a teacher with passion and one who just has a job.

Even a child in kindergarten could add more words to the story than the writer who added the words on the bottom of the page!

Bobbi Barras


How Do We Change Education?

According to Stanton Peele, Ph.D., J.D. Reform American Education – Reform America?, September 27, 2010, The calls to alarm in the U.S. focus primarily on declining world rankings in student performance, particularly in science and math, and declining high school graduation rates, particularly for minorities. The word most often used by U.S. Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan and other leaders inside and out the educational world to describe these trends is “unacceptable.”  What does that mean?  If this state of affairs is so “unacceptable,” how did it come to be?  Keep in mind that calls for educational reformation and improvement are a constant in American public policy – remember when the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957, spurring a national outcry to improve science education?  Fifty years later the United States has drifted into the third tier of nations internationally in science and math.  Unacceptable!

According to a study by the Second International Mathematics Study, one common thread of opinion, is educational reform.  The Economist says the reform must “overhaul the curriculum…and must deliver better quality education.”

I’ve been doing research and one thing I found was that the United States, compared with other countries worldwide, has fallen to the 17th & 18th in Reading, Math and Science.  (You can read more about this at my website.) What a shock that is!   This is the United States of America supposedly the greatest country in the world and has been a leader for many years in just about everything as it relates to education and lifestyle.  How did this happen?  Well…the more research I did the more I found where the problems may be.

Not every student learns easily or the same way.   And, not every teacher should be teaching.   We need teachers who teach because they have a passion for the topic they teach.   The schools say if we are credentialed to teach, then we are expected to teach any topic we are assigned.   That is the biggest mistake one could ever even consider.   Why would a teacher teach tennis if he never played before and had no interest in the game?   Put another way….if a teacher hates math and scored low in testing in college, why would s/he teach math?    The old saying is, “If you want to learn a subject….just teach it.”   That works for the layman.  It doesn’t work for a teacher who is credentialed to teach.  We need teachers who can come to class without a book and teach the topic and supplement the book.   Instead we have teachers who actually, in high school, who read the book to the students.   That is not a teacher that needs to be teaching.   That is a teacher who doesn’t prepare for a class in advance to arriving in the classroom.  It’s a teacher who just wants a job and has nothing to offer a student.   As a teacher for 25 years in the school system and Community College I can attest that there are many teachers who “read” to their students.   That is totally unacceptable unless it’s the kindergarten, first grade, and second grade and maybe even the third grade. 

 In my research I found students stated they were bored in class, students who stated their mind wandered while the teacher was teaching, and students who created problems within the classroom making other students laugh and many other disturbances within the classroom.   All it takes is one domino to fall and the entire class is out of control.  What causes boredom?  Well, the simple answer is a lack of interest.  But there is more to it than a lack of interest.   It falls on the shoulder of the teacher when there is a lack of interest. 

 I have also seen students sitting on the edge of their seats when a teacher was teaching a class.   A teacher who has a passion for the topic can weave stories and jokes into the learning lesson that keeps the students attention.   That is a teacher we need. 

I actually started out by doing research mainly for the purpose of finding a way to enhance the learning of those who have hearing impairment of the nerve type.   These are regular people who simply lost some hearing… they can hear sound but cannot comprehend what is being said and most lost their hearing as a result of environmental noises after birth or after the age of 20.   Oh, yes I hear you…I know you’re thinking they can put on a hearing aid/s.   As a Hearing Specialist I would recommend that as well.   However, nerve loss is not the same as conductive loss.   The latter can be fitted to an aid/s easily as his/her problem is in the middle ear and/or the high success rate of the stapes surgery can take care of that and hearing is restored almost to it’s preexisting state.   Not so with nerve impairment.

 Nerve impairment is in the inner ear where the cochlear organ is located and that organ is about the size of your thumb nail and holds your entire decoding system within.  This organ consists of tiny little hair cells that wave back and forth in the fluid.   Once a hair cell or group of hair cells become damaged s/he will no longer hear that specific sound the hair cell or group of hair cells generated.  That’s why you hear people say, “I can hear sound.  I just cannot understand speech.”   Or, they say, “Everyone mumbles today!”   I’m sure you’ve heard the latter many times.   That’s a person who’s still in the denial stage.

These are people who have lost their hearing in early life, midlife or later life.   We once thought of hearing impairment as being age related but it is no longer true.   We have teens losing their hearing as a result of all the loud music and sounds they listen to, not just from a distance but from the plugs they place in their ears and pump the sound up beyond what the cochlear can handle.  As a result these little hair cells snap.    This loss is mainly caused by environmental noises.  And, more people under the age of 60 have hearing impairment of the nerve type than ever before in history!   We have over 77 million baby boomers becoming senior citizens and these people went through the 70’s loud rock music period.  That’s something to think about.   Back in the ’80’s I believe we had less than 20 million senior citizens in the U.S.  

There is definitely a way to enhance the education of those who have nerve impairment.  I found this by accident.

The deaf have been using this for several years but the hearing impaired are still not aware of this method.  I started out by trying to get the word out.   But the more I researched and wrote, the more I found this method would also enhance the learning for all students in every classroom.  

 So what am I talking about?    In the world of deaf it’s called CART services.  The word CART doesn’t make sense to the outside world of deafness.   If you knew to google CART then you’d find out.  But who would google CART without knowing what the word means?   If you googled hearing impairment it would bypass CART.  It’s being used in the colleges along with note taking and sign language for the deaf.   But for the hearing impaired individual with a nerve impairment, CART services is all that is needed to enhance their learning.    We all know there is captions/subtitles provided on TV, DVD’s, CD’s, and I was a part of that development of captions on TV, but what most don’t know is that it can be provided in every learning environment throughout life.  Why?   Because learning is a life time endeavor in today’s world.   And, we have all kinds of people with different needs and most will not tell you what their needs are, still others don’t know what their needs are and most don’t know CART services is even available or what it does.

 When I found this method I thought I discovered hearing all over again!  I was floating on a cloud.  I was attending a seminar on real estate and the company provided that service for me as an individual in a group of over 400 students.  At break time I was surrounded by others with hearing loss asking me where I got the balls to ask for this service.  When I asked them if they let the company know their needs….they said they didn’t tell anyone they have hearing impairment.  Still others said, “I cannot write fast enough to take notes and this would really solve my problem and free me up to just listen.”   The fact I had this service for myself created a huge scene during every break and lunchtime.   They all wanted to sit around me and asked if the font could be enlarged so they could all see.  

 So what is CART services?   Well, it’s a court reporter (CR) who works with a stenography machine.  S/he types every single word being spoken!  It’s a typewriter on hotwheels!  And, the average CR can type 225 words per minute.  Simple wouldn’t you agree?   That’s actually simple and is the same method used for captions and subtitles.   Why didn’t we think about this before?  

 During my research, I started thinking about all the students who have difficulties in class….I’m now talking about the average student who can hear.   Additionally, students  have different ways of learning.  Some of us are auditory oriented and others are visually oriented.  Some of us learn more by hearing what is being said and others learn more from reading.   Some need both.  Still others are need to include their muscles to learn.   Remember, years ago how we learned to spell?   Writing the word 10 times or more until we could spell the words without looking at them.   Then, when we had the test, we heard the word spoken and we put the pencil to the paper and followed the pencil.   That’s called muscle memory tied to auditory.   Did you ever watch Tiger Woods golf?   That’s real muscle memory tied with visual orientation.  Oh yes, and the ability to block out any meaningless noise …called concentration.   And that, in itself, is another skill to learn.  So now you can see, we all learn differently and that has to be taken into account in order to teach students.

 Therefore, we need to do 3 things to begin with and that is….

1.    test students in the lower grades and find out what each student need may be;

2.    hire only teachers who have a passion to teach the topic provided; and,

3.    provide CaptionsVerbatimPro services in every classroom.

 Why CaptionsVerbatimPro services?   Because the captioner would be in every classroom and every word being spoken by the teacher would be on record.  Students would not have to take notes unless they wanted to.  Their time could be better spent listening to the teacher and absorbing the information.  At the end of each class, the record would be sent to every student’s computer for study and reference.  For students who desire the print out to be in another language …it’s just a click of a button and it’s done.  

 This would eliminate “he said, she said”.  It’s on record.  The counselor, school principal and or director of studies, even the superintendent could tune in to any classroom at any given moment to watch a teacher performance.  Teachers can be graded more accurately in that manner.

 Teachers will come to class prepared every single class time.  There will be no room for a teacher who wants to come to class when s/he’s not feeling his/her best.   A student deserves the teacher’s best every single class time.

This would, in itself, increase the salary of a teacher who has the passion to teach the topic!

I’m sending this out to everyone on my address book.  Please critique and let me know what you think.  Be sure to go to my website at:  www.captionsverbatimpro and get back with me.  I would relish your thoughts.   I plan to take this nationwide.  I will be applying for grants and the plan is to reach out to those who are dedicated to education in America and that is people like:  Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Forbes, Ted Turner, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil, Michael Bloomberg, George Lucas, Steve Wynn, Donald Trump, Donald Bren, 60 Minutes, Good Morning America and many others who feel as dedicated to education as most American’s.  We need to get back to being Number One not just by score but by education and knowledge to back up that score.  We can do that. 

Thank you,

Bobbi Barras  (past experiences)  (future dreams for improving education)

We still have some work to do on the CVP website and I welcome your input


Creating Jobs

The Vanishing Court Reporter:  Off the Record

By:  LawCrossing

Most stenographers’ machines these days are tricked out with fancy screens, but at their core the devices are essentially hot rod typewriters.  Still, it can take 3 years of training to learn how to pluck the 24 keys at the requisite 225 words per minute.  And right now, there aren’t enough nimble fingers to go around.

Across the country, the legal profession is suffering a severe shortage of court reporters.  According to Marshall Jorpeland, director of communications for the National Court Reporters Association, the clamor for reporting services has increased as the number of stenographers has plummeted.  In the past decade, the number of NCRA-accredited training programs has dropped from 102 to 72.   Of the nearly 45,000 court reporters in the U.S. today, less than a third actually toil in a courtroom, the rest opting for lucrative closed-caption-TV work or freelance jobs for law firms.  “People are wondering where the next generation is going to come from,” says Jorpeland.

Many stenographers who haven’t sought the flexible hours and higher earnings of private practice..a typical freelancer’s income is more than $60,000 annually, and top reporters can clear 6 figures…are losing their jobs to budget cuts.  Courts in Oregon and Colorado have ordered considerable layoffs, a round of cuts is planned for some Florida courts as well.  “I’ve waited a couple of years for trial transcripts,” says Michael Bogdanow, a litigator at Boston’s Meehan, Boyle, Black & Fitzgerald.  “Everything slows down as a result.  You can’t pursue an appeal without the transcript, which is one big reason why appeals take so long.”

Meanwhile, reporters whose positions have been spared must scramble to keep up.  In Florida, a murder conviction was overturned because the jury selection process had not been accurately recorded.  In North Carolina, judges routinely delay trials and hearings as they wait for a spare reporter.

Some states have addressed the deficit by installing sensitive digital recording systems to tape proceedings for later transcription.  Most stenographers, however, say this is a poor alternative.  “If you’re representing someone accused of a crime, and you plan to file an appeal, do you want to rely on a transcript that’s filled with “inaudible” and that was prepared by a peson who wasn’t at the original proceeding?”  says R. Douglas Friend, a partner at the Portland, Oregon, court reporting firm Beovich Walter & Friend.

The industry should improve over the next few years as broadcasters strive to provide closed-captioning on virtually all new television programming by 2006, and on older programming by 2008, as the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires.  Writing those captions requires largely the same skills as recording legal proceedings, so the NCRA is promoting a bill that would create $60 million in educational grants.  The funding, if approved, could lift the entire profession.

The anemic economy may prove to be an obstacle to legislative approval of the funding, but Jorpeland and his colleagues find solace in the fact that when jobs are scarce, professional schools usually get a boost.  “Last fall, enrollment in reporter training programs was up 19% over 2001,” he says.  “And we have evidence indicating this year is at least as strong.”

If court reporters are losing their jobs in the court room, CaptionsVerbatimPro will be happy to provide them a job doing the same work but for a different group where captions is sorely needed.   That’s technology working and it provides a solution to the court reporters dilemma.   The other thing that is happening based on what I have seen in scattered statements on the internet is that the court reporters are taking a 30% cut in pay and that is not be acceptable to most.   They are refusing to work for the court unless they pay their regular rate of pay which runs anywhere from $90/hour to $125/hour for the top reporters.    That’s is about the same rate the CART services are charging.   There is a real war going on between the courts and the court reporters regarding their rate of pay.


Building Education, It’s a Starting Point: Getting Back to Basics

Building Education…It’s a Starting Point: Getting back to Basics

Students Are Not Equally Able or Willing To Learn: Why?  The following is an excellent article every parent should read:  According to Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune Columnist, Dec. 22, 2010 America’s primary and secondary schools have many problems, but an excess of excellence is not one of them.   Not only do our weak students fare poorly in international comparisons, so do our strong students.  Mediocrity is the national norm.

The very best students are the ones most likely to do things of great benefit to the rest of us such as, cure malaria, devise revolutionary inventions, start the next Apple or plumb the secrets of the universe.   But we don’t always put much importance on helping them to realize their full potential.

A case in point is Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., a racially and economically mixed suburb of Chicago that is home to Northwestern University.  It recently decided to eliminate a high honors freshman English course aimed at challenging the top students.

Henceforth, these youngsters will be grouped with everyone else in a regular “honors” class in humanities.   Next year, the same may be done with biology.   Your kid is an honor student at ETHS?  Heck, everyone is an honors student at ETHS.

It’s hardly the only school in America where grouping students according to their ability is in disrepute.   There is a widespread impulse is to treat all kids as equally able and willing to learn.   But the results often fall dismally short of the hopes.

When the Chicago public schools scrapped remedial classes for ninth graders and put everyone in college-prep courses, “failure rates increased, grades declined slightly, test scores did not improve and students were no more likely to enter college,”  according to a study by the Consortium on Chicago School REsearch at the University of Chicago.   Among average and above students, absenteeism rose.

The danger in putting the brightest kids in general classes is that they will be bored by instruction geared to the middle.   But their troubles don’t elicit much sympathy.   Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless told The Atlantic magazine, “The United States does not do a good job of educating kids at the top.  There’s a long-standing attitude that, “Well, smart kids can make it on their own.”

But can they?   Only 6 percent of American kids achieve advanced proficiency in math, lower than in 30 other countries.   In Taiwan, the figure is 28%.

School administrators in Evanston insist the change is aimed at making the curriculum more demanding, even as they make it less demanding for some students.  Thanks to the abolition of this elite course, we are told, “high-achieving students” will profit from “experiencing multiple perspectives and diversity in their classes to gain cultural capital.”

In other words, racial balance will take priority over academic rigor.   Blacks and Hispanics make up nearly half of all students but only 19 percent of those in advanced placement courses and 29 percent of those in honors courses.

This is because minority students at Evanston, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000, generally score lower on achievement tests.  Putting all students together is supposed to give everyone an equal opportunity.

But if you have a fever, you don’t bring it down by breaking the thermometer.  The low numbers of black and Hispanic students are a symptom of a deeper problem, namely the failure of elementary and middle schools to prepare them for the most challenging course work.  Evanston has had a big racial gap in academic performance for decades, and there is nothing to gain from pretending it doesn’t exist.

Schools that group (or “track”) kids by ability generally get better overall results.  Chester Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, notes in a recent report, “Middle schools with more tracks have significantly more math pupils performing at the advanced and proficient levels and fewer students at the needs improvement and failing levels.”

Why would that be?  Teaching is not easy and teaching kids with a wide range of aptitude and interest is even harder.  Grouping students by ability allows the tailoring of lessons to match the needs of each group.  Putting them all together is bound to fail one group or another.

Shortchanging gifted teens creates the risk of another unwanted effect:  inducing their parents to leave.  Families in Evanston can always move to neighboring suburbs with good schools, or they can opt for several fine private and parochial alternatives.   Average students don’t gain from being in the same classes as exceptional ones if the exceptional ones are not there.

We as a society have not been very successful at turning average students into high achievers.   Maybe we’ll have better luck doing the opposite.

What a great article!  Well said!  By Steve Chapman.    Please read how CaptionsVerbatimPro can improve all levels of learning.   Separation into 3 groups can be a good thing and everyone’s scores will increase.  There is no such thing as one size fits all for the same reason we can’t buy a size 7 shoe to everyone!  However, and additionally, having 3 separate groups may set up competition for students to increase their scores to get into the higher level of learning.   When each group has all the notes verbatim they have something to work with.   Once they leave the classroom and go into another class for a different course, they lose too much information in their memory box of the former class.  It appears the student who excels has a stronger memory box than most and is able to go back in his/her head and recant what the instructor said at any given time, and, can even use that method when taking a test weeks later. 

I have a son and a grandson (father and son) who are both walking encyclopedia’s but they both learn differently.   They can recant verbatim most anything they heard when the subject arises weeks or months and even years after.  Not everyone has that kind of memory.  My grandson uses both reading and listening.  My son only needs to listen and he never forgets what was said.  He says, “All I have to do is roll my mind back to the time I heard the lesson and I can provide a verbatim account of what was said.”  Others can do the same once they read a topic.   And, still others may need both.   We’re talking about our senses here.   Some are more inclined to auditory.   Others remember more when they read.   And, still others, need both.   Once we understand what our student needs are, then we solve a huge problem in learning.  It’s easily tested to determine how the student learns best.  These are the kind of tests we need to have in our schools at the very beginning and perhaps every other year to determine any changes as they grow.

For some subjects, such as spelling, muscles need to be involved.   Remember the days when we actually wrote the word 10 times or more until we could spell  the word without looking at it?  When one writes the word several times s/he’s using his muscle memory.  When s/he hears the word for the test all s/he needs to do is put the pen to the paper and follow the pen. 

So many students coming out of high school, community colleges, universities and even some of the instructors at the universities cannot spell.  They relied on computers to learn spelling and there is no muscles involved to learn spelling.   The computer simply asks, which word is spelled correctly?   Well, that is nothing more than a guessing game. 

It works very much like a golfer.  The golfer uses his muscles to hit that ball and send it where he wants it to go.   He does that with practice over and over again.  It’s very similar to learning how to spell. 

Now let’s talk about math.   Years ago we learned math with a book, paper and a pencil.   Muscles were involved.   Today the student has a hand held calculator right on his/her phone.  And, if they enter 3 X 3 and the answer comes up as 12….they believe it!  

When I was teaching math, I also insisted the student transfer the problem from the book to paper with their pencil.   At first they balked.  Some said, “That’s outdated!”   I said, “It could be.”    However, we know that part of learning math has to do with organization skills or one gets lost in the middle of solving a problem.   I taught them to work from left to right and show me how they got the answer.   Once students learn this basic skill then it’s ok to go to a calculator or computer.   There is no substitution for learning basic skills when it comes to math and spelling.

Thoughts to ponder.  This brings up some questions: 

  • Why are we not teaching Basic Skills in the lower grade?
  • Why are we not testing our students to determine how they learn best?

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