Monthly Archives: January 2015

What happens when the Common Core becomes less … common?

 January 25
The Common Core State Standards were envisioned as a way to measure most of the nation’s students against a shared benchmark, but education experts say political upheaval and the messy reality of on-the-ground implementation is threatening that original goal.

“Part of the whole point was you were going to have commonality that would let you compare schools in Chicago to schools in Cleveland,” said Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who supports the concept of common standards but has been critical of efforts to implement the Core. “We may not see the benefits that folks were hoping to see. . . . The whole notion of commonality, which was so attractive, is more and more a phantasm.”

One of the bipartisan hopes for the Common Core, a set of guidelines for what the nation’s kindergarten-through-12th-grade students should learn and when, was that states would leave behind their patchwork of 50 different sets of standards measured by 50 different tests. It would, for the first time, be easy for parents and policymakers to directly compare student performance in one state to the rest of the nation, and it would be much more difficult for lagging states to game the system in an effort to hide weak performance.

That goal seemed easily within reach in 2011, as 45 states and the District of Columbia adopted the new standards. The Obama administration spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help states develop two new online tests, known as PARCC and Smarter Balanced, that would measure student progress on the Common Core, and most states signed on to administer those tests starting this spring.

But as some states head into their first round of testing, the picture has fragmented amid political blowback from parents and conservative lawmakers who criticize the Core as nationalized education and have found the new course material confounding.

Indiana and Oklahoma have dropped the Core, and four other states are moving to review and potentially replace the standards. Lawmakers in other statehouses are taking up anti-Common Core bills as the legislative season gets underway.

There has been even broader resistance to the common standardized tests. In 2010, for example, there were 26 states aligned with the testing consortium known as PARCC, but that has whittled down by more than half: Now only 12 states plus the District plan to give the PARCC exam to students, according to the Council of State School Officers, an organization of state education chiefs. Mississippi became the latest state to back out of the PARCC testing consortium this month amid calls from Gov. Phil Bryant (R) to drop the Common Core.

Smarter Balanced has seen less attrition, but just 18 states plan to give that test this spring. The states that are planning to administer one of the two tests account for about 40 percent of students nationwide, according to an analysis by the trade newspaper Education Week. The remaining 20 states have chosen their own tests, which could make meaningful comparisons difficult.

Common Core advocates say they never thought every state would sign on to the standards or that every state would agree to one of the two consortia tests. But they also acknowledge that the fragmentation is not ideal, and they hope more states will decide to return to the fold.

“The real issue is what some of these independent state assessments are going to look like, and I think the jury is still out,” said Gene Wilhoit, the former director of an organization of state schools chiefs who played a key role in promoting the Core.

Wilhoit said he had initially envisioned a much more limited number of tests that would allow for a broad comparison of student performance across many states, providing a national picture of achievement.

Although it’s not clear how testing will shake out, Wilhoit said he’s confident that the nation’s focus on Common Core will make it impossible for states to slide by with easy tests that make their students look more accomplished than they are. That has been an issue since 2002, when the federal No Child Left Behind law established sanctions against schools that failed to meet testing targets.

“I am convinced that whatever comes about will be scrutinized to a degree that no one has ever seen,” Wilhoit said. “I think it’s going to be difficult now for any state to hide.”

Some teachers say it’s important to be able to compare their students’ performance with students elsewhere.

Eu Hyun Choi, a seventh-grade math teacher in Chicago, said on a trip to New York for literacy training she realized that, because the two states gave different tests, it wasn’t possible to gauge how her students measured up against those in New York. She feared that her students were being held to a lower bar than their peers elsewhere.

“I just felt like Illinois students were getting cheated,” she said.

The Chicago school system announced this month that it would administer PARCC to 10 percent of its students because of concerns about limited technology access.

Choi said she hopes her students are among those who will take the PARCC exam this year, but she was dismayed to find out that she’ll only be able to compare her students’ performance with 11 other states.

“That’s pretty shocking,” she said.

Other teachers say they don’t care much about the ability to compare test scores across state lines. But they’re tired of the indecision that has come with the political tussles over the standards and their tests.

Natalie Shaw, a second-grade teacher in Indiana — which is choosing an exam — said the turmoil is frustrating. For much of the past year, she said, it has been unclear what Indiana teachers are supposed to teach and what students will be expected to know on spring tests.

“At the end of the day, people just want to know what do they want us to teach so we can make sure that kids are prepared for the types of assessments that are coming up,” Shaw said.

Opposition to the Common Core tests has come amid a broader national debate about standardized testing, which many parents and teachers argue has warped public education. Critics of the Common Core and testing have cheered the fracturing of the testing consortia, but many advocates play down the impact of states withdrawing from the common tests.

“I really don’t see it as a problem,” said Karen Nussle, executive director of the pro-Common Core Collaborative for Student Success. “I think the testing landscape is going to continue to evolve, and I’m really optimistic.”

Nussle and other Core advocates argue that the standards are more important than the tests because they aim to push teachers to better prepare students for life after high school. Most states have retained the standards, although some have backed away from the name “Common Core” because of its political volatility.

Although membership in the two testing consortia has shrunk, there are still large swaths of the country where, for the first time, students will take the same test.

“This is huge, considering the idea of common standards, let alone common assessments, was unfathomable less than a decade ago,” PARCC spokesman David Connerty-Marin said by e-mail. He added that PARCC hopes more states will join the consortia because “students and their families have a right to know if they are on track, and to know how they are performing compared to students in schools across their state and the country.”

Luci Willits, Smarter Balanced’s deputy executive director, said that while cross-state comparisons are ideal, “the real value of the assessment is the quality.” Both consortia say their tests are built to assess students’ critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, providing a more accurate picture of students’ preparedness for college and careers.

Advocates also say they think the number of states administering the consortia tests will grow if states see that the tests are cheaper, and of better quality, than tests that states develop independently.

“States are going to go at their own speed,” said Chad Colby, a spokesman for Achieve, a nonprofit organization that managed the development of the standards.

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.

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Types of ADHD

Raising or being an ADHDer is not easy.  Brain scans and specs are reaching great heights towards assisting those that struggle.  The more we learn, the better we can address issues towards a healthy outcome.

As I have researched ADHD, I have found that doctors vary on how many types of ADHD exist.  I have found at the most, seven, by Dr. Amen.

We have attached some to cartoon character you may recognize.


1. CLASSIC ADHD – Primary ADD symptoms (short attention span, distractibility, disorganization) plus hyperactivity, restlessness, and impulsivity.

Usually low prefrontal cortex and cerebellar activity with concentration.



2. INATTENTIVE ADD – Primary ADD symptoms plus low energy and motivation, spacey, and internally preoccupied. Type 2 tends to be diagnosed later that than Type 1, if at all. It is more common in girls. These are quiet kids and adults, often labeled as “lazy”, “unmotivated”, or “not all that smart”.

Usually low prefrontal cortex and cerebellar activity with concentration. We are working hard to see how these two types differ in the brain.



3. OVER-FOCUSSED ADD/ADHD – Primary ADD symptoms plus cognitive inflexibility, trouble shifting attention, being stuck on negative thoughts or behaviors, worrying, holding grudges, argumentativeness, oppositional, and saddled with a need for routines. It is often seen in families with addiction problems or obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

Usually high anterior cingulate activity plus low prefrontal cortex with concentration.



4. LIMBIC ADD/ADHD – Primary ADD symptoms plus chronic mild sadness, negativity, low energy, low self-esteem, irritability, social isolation, poor appetite, and sleep patterns.

Stimulants by themselves usually cause problems with rebound or produce depressive symptoms.

Usually high deep limbic activity plus low prefrontal cortex at rest and with concentration.



5. ANXIOUS ADD/ADHD – Inattentiveness, distractibility, disorganization, anxiety, tension, nervousness, a tendency to predict the worst, freezing in test-taking situations, and a tendency toward social anxiety. People with this type are prone to experience the physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

Increased activity in the basal ganglia at rest and while the person is concentrating. Decreased activity in the underside of the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum while the person is concentrating.



6. TEMPORAL LOBE ADD/ADHD – Primary ADD symptoms plus a short fuse, misinterprets comments, periods of anxiety, headaches or abdominal pain, history of head injury, family history of rage, dark thoughts, memory problems, and struggles with reading. This subtype is often seen in families with learning or temper problems.

Usually low temporal lobe activity plus low prefrontal cortex with concentration.


7. RING OF FIRE ADD/ADHD – Primary ADD symptoms plus moodiness, anger outbursts, oppositional, inflexibility, fast thoughts, excessive talking, and very sensitive to sounds and lights. Dr. Amen named it “Ring of Fire” after the intense ring of over-activity he saw in the brains of those affected. This type is usually made much worse by stimulants.

Marked overall increased activity across the cortex; may or may not have low prefrontal cortex activity.



  1. Take a 100% multi-vitamin every day. Studies have reported that they help people with learning and help prevent chronic illness.
  2. Eliminate caffeine from your diet. It interferes with treatments and sleep.
  3. Get 30-45 minutes per day of intense aerobic exercise. At Amen Clinics, brain health is very important to us, so please make sure kids have safe exercise outlets and wear helmets when appropriate. When nothing else is available, go for long, fast walks.
  4. Turn off the television and video games, or limit them to no more than 30 minutes a day. This may be hard for kids and teens, but it can make a huge difference.
  5. Food is a drug. Most people with ADHD do best with a diet that is high in protein and low in simple carbohydrates. Healing ADD is a good place to start learning how to make this diet work for you or your loved one.
  6. Do not yell at people with ADD/ADHD. Many people with ADD/ADHD seek out conflict or excitement because they like the stimulation it brings them. They can be masters at making other people mad or angry. Do not lose your temper with them: if they are able to get this reaction out of you, their subconscious, low-energy prefrontal cortex lights up and the stimulation makes them feel great. Never let your anger be their medication—they can get addicted to it.
  7. Test ADD/ADHD kids and adults for learning disabilities. They occur in up to 60% of people with ADD/ADHD. The local schools are often set up to do this for school-age children.
  8. Apply for appropriate school or work accommodations.
  9. Take a high-quality fish oil supplement. Adults: 2,000-4,000mg per day. Children: 1,000-2,000mg per day.
  10. Never stop seeking the best help for your brain.

For more information, go to amen



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What Is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

ADD; ADHD; Childhood hyperkinesis

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a problem of not being able to focus, being overactive, not being able control behavior, or a combination of these. For these problems to be diagnosed as ADHD, they must be out of the normal range for a person’s age and development.


ADHD usually begins in childhood, but may continue into the adult years. It is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder in children. ADHD is diagnosed much more often in boys than in girls.

It is not clear what causes ADHD. A combination of genes and environmental factors likely plays a role in the development of the condition. Imaging studies suggest that the brains of children with ADHD are different from those of children without ADHD.


Symptoms of ADHD fall into three groups:

  • Not being able to focus (inattentiveness)
  • Being extremely active (hyperactivity)
  • Not being able to control behavior (impulsivity)

Some people with ADHD have mainly inattentive symptoms. Some have mainly hyperactive and impulsive symptoms. Others have a combination of different symptom types. Those with mostly inattentive symptoms are sometimes said to have attention deficit disorder (ADD). They tend to be less disruptive and are more likely not to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Inattentive Symptoms

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork
  • Has difficulty keeping attention during tasks or play
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork or chores and tasks
  • Has problems organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork)
  • Often loses toys, assignments, pencils, books, or tools needed for tasks or activities
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities

Hyperactivity Symptoms

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • Leaves seat when remaining seated is expected
  • Runs about or climbs in inappropriate situations
  • Has problems playing or working quietly
  • Is often “on the go,” acts as if “driven by a motor”
  • Talks excessively

Impulsivity Symptoms

  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Has difficulty awaiting turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others (butts into conversations or games)

Exams and Tests

If ADHD is suspected, the person should be evaluated by a health care professional. There is no test that can make or exclude a diagnosis of ADHD. The diagnosis is based on a pattern of the symptoms listed above. When the person with suspected ADHD is a child, parents and teachers are usually involved during the evaluation process.

Most children with ADHD have at least one other developmental or mental health problem. This problem may be a mood, anxiety or substance use disorder; a learning disability; or a tic disorder. A doctor can help determine whether these other conditions are present.


Treating ADHD is a partnership between the health care provider and the patient. If the patient is a child, parents and often teachers are involved. For treatment to work, it is important to:

  • Set specific, appropriate goals.
  • Start medicine and/or talk therapy.
  • Follow-up regularly with the doctor to check on goals, results, and any side effects of medicines. During these visits, information should be gathered from the patient and if relevant, parents and teachers.

If treatment does not seem to work, the health care provider will likely:

  • Confirm the person has ADHD.
  • Check for medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms.
  • Make sure the treatment plan is being followed.


Medicine combined with behavioral treatment often works best. There are several different ADHD medicines that may be used alone or in combination. The health care provider will decide which medicine is right based on the person’s symptoms and needs.

Psychostimulants (also known as stimulants) are the most commonly used ADHD medicines. Although these drugs are called stimulants, they actually have a calming effect in people with ADHD.

Follow the health care provider’s instructions on how to take ADHD medicine.

Some ADHD medicines have side effects. If the person has side effects, contact the health care provider right away. The dosage or medicine itself may need to be changed.


Therapy for both the patient and if relevant, the family, can help everyone understand and gain control of the stressful feelings related to ADHD.

A common type of ADHD therapy is called behavioral therapy. It teaches children and parents healthy behaviors and how to manage disruptive behaviors. For mild cases of ADHD, behavioral therapy alone (without medicine) can sometimes be effective.

Support groups can help the person and family connect with others who have similar problems.

Other tips to help a child with ADHD include:

  • Talk regularly with the child’s teacher.
  • Keep a consistent daily schedule, including regular times for homework, meals, and outdoor activities. Make changes to the schedule in advance and not at the last moment.
  • Limit distractions in the child’s environment.
  • Make sure the child gets a healthy, varied diet, with plenty of fiber and basic nutrients.
  • Make sure the child gets enough sleep.
  • Praise and reward good behavior.
  • Provide clear and consistent rules for the child.

There is little proof that alternative treatments for ADHD such as herbs, supplements, and chiropractic are helpful.

Outlook (Prognosis)

ADHD is a long-term, chronic condition. If it is not treated correctly, ADHD may lead to:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Not doing well in school
  • Problems keeping a job
  • Trouble with the law

One third to one half of children with ADHD continue to have symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity as adults. Adults with ADHD are often able to control behavior and mask difficulties.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call the doctor if you or your child’s school staff suspect ADHD. You should also tell the doctor about:

  • Problems at home, school, and with peer relationships
  • Side effects of ADHD medicine
  • Signs of depression


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics, Subcommittee on Attention-Deficity/Hyperactivity Disorder, Steering Committee on Quality Improvement and Management. ADHD: Clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;128:1007-1022. [PubMed]
  2. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, Va: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.
  3. Bostic JQ, Prince JB. Child and adolescent psychiatric disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, et al., eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 69.
  4. Knouse LE, Safren SA. Current status of cognitive behavioral therapy for adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2010;33:497–509. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  5. Prince JB, Spencer TJ, Wilens TE, Biederman J. Pharmacotherapy of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder across the lifespan. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, et al., eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 49.

Review Date: 2/24/2014.

Reviewed by: Fred K. Berger, MD, Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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