Category Archives: Uncategorized


What Research Can Help Your Students Score Higher on the Upcoming BIG Tests? 

School testing

This month, we’ll focus on how to prepare for existing state and national tests. I’ll focus on three things that can help your students improve their chances to score up to their potential. By the way, kids never score above their potential; they’re just not going to randomly make enough lucky right answers time after time after time (in statistics, it’s called regression to the mean).

But, they often underperform for a host of reasons, even when they should perform much better. While we could focus on dozens of variables that influence standardized testing, we’ll focus on these three: 1) brain chemistry, 2) priming, and 3) episodic memory triggers. Some of these suggestions got so many rave reviews that they are reproduced from an earlier bulletin!

The Research

Ten Minutes to Better Scores

Two laboratory and two randomized field studies tested a psychological intervention designed to improve students’ scores on high-stakes exams. These simple ten-minute activities can raise test scores. One well-designed study showed that writing about testing worries prior to taking the exam boosts exam performance in the classroom.

The study authors expected that sitting for an important exam leads to worries about the situation and its consequences that undermine test performance. What the authors tested was… whether having students write down their thoughts about an upcoming test could improve test performance.

This simple intervention, a brief expressive writing assignment that occurred immediately before taking an important test, significantly improved students’ exam scores, especially for students habitually anxious about test taking. Simply writing about one’s worries before a high-stakes exam can boost test scores. It does it by more than 10% and it’s quick and free (Ramirez G, Beilock, SL., 2011).

Brain Chemistry and Testing There are three chemicals to focus on for optimal testing results: 1) dopamine (it generally facilitates informational transfer within limbic and cortical networks to promote working memory and reward-seeking behavior, says Luciana, et al. 1998), 2) noradrenaline (it generally promotes a more narrowed focus, sharper attention and improved memory. This system plays a specific role in the regulation of cognitive functions, including sustained attention, working memory, impulse control, and the planning of voluntary behavior), and 3) glucose (it provides short term energy and, in low to moderate doses, promotes enhanced memory (Krebs DL, Parent MB., 2005).

The Power of Suggestion

Can you influence testing outcomes by “prepping” their brain for success? It has long been proposed that motivational responses that were subtle could serve as priming to effect academic performance. A recent study showed that yes, it can be done and they can show you how to do it. “You can prep the brain several ways. One is by showing them the letter “A” in advance.” (I’ll tell you “how” in a moment.) The other one of our two “prepping” studies is to give peppermints to all kids for your final review, then use them again at the time of the big test. (Barker, et al. 2003). This raises attentional levels and provides glucose.

Location of the Test Itself

I have always advocated that we ensure that students taking the test take it in the room in which they studied for it. That’s the power of episodic or content memory. But, there’s more to it. Stress is an issue, too. Stress impaired memory when assessed in the unfamiliar context, but not when assessed in the learning context (Schwabe L., and Wolf OT, 2009). In short, if your students can’t be in the test-givers room to learn the material, at least bring them into the testing room and do a review there days before the event.

Practical Applications

Let’s “flesh out” each of the studies listed above. The first category is about enhancing brain chemicals. This is fairly easy to do.

Dopamine can be strengthened by 1) voluntary gross motor repetitive movements, like marching, relays, playing a game. It is enhanced by strong positive feelings like reunions and celebrations. Most of all, it’s enhanced by looking forward to something very good.

Norepinephrine is enhanced by 1) risk, like a student speaking in front of his/her peers, 2) urgency, like serious deadlines for compelling tasks, and 3) excitement, like theater, competition, comedy, the arts.

Glucose is enhanced by 1) food sources: complex carbs are best, but almost any source can do in a pinch, 2) physical activity: glucose is stored in the liver in the form of glycogen and released in the form of glucose, and 3) any time we are experiencing emotions.

The study that I mentioned earlier used peppermint odor during simple skill practice, performance, memorization, and alphabetization. Participants completed the protocol twice–once with peppermint odor present and once without. Analysis indicated significant differences in the gross speed, net speed, and accuracy on the task, with odor associated with improved performance. The study results suggest peppermint odor may promote a general arousal of attention, so participants stay focused on their task and increase performance.

The Power of Suggestion

You can influence testing outcomes by “prepping” their brain for success with a positive suggestion. Sound like Star Trek “Vulcan” Mind Control? Or, is it more like “Obi Wan Kenobe”? It’s neither. It has long been proposed that motivational responses that were subtle could serve as priming to affect academic performance. The research study I mentioned above was conducted at a large research university in the USA. Here is what they started with:

23 undergraduates participated in Group 1 (were conducted in classroom settings)
32 graduate students in Group 2 (were conducted in classroom settings)
76 undergraduates in Group 3 (were conducted in laboratory setting)

The “mind games” manipulation came in the form of a “Test Bank ID code” (completely phony) on the cover of a test. The ID Code was needed because participants were prompted to view and write it on each page of their test. The letters used were “A” (the positive priming for group 1), “F” (the negative priming for group 2) and “J” (the neutral, control group 3). Students who got the “A” on their ID Code outperformed BOTH the “F” on the code and the “J” control group. Students are vulnerable to evaluative letters presented before a task, these results support years of research highlighting the significant role that our nonconscious processes play in achievement settings.

Location of the Test Itself

Stress before retention testing impairs memory, whereas memory performance is enhanced when the learning context is reinstated at retrieval. As a general rule, low-moderate stress is best for encoding and for retrieving, it is best to match the encoding stress level. I have always advocated that we ensure that students taking the test take it in the room in which they studied for it. That’s the power of episodic or content memory.

But there’s more to it. Stress is an issue, too.

The study examined whether the negative impact of stress before memory retrieval can be attenuated when memory is tested in the same environmental context as that in which learning took place. These results suggest that the detrimental effects of stress on memory retrieval can be abolished when a distinct learning context is reinstated at test.

Stress impaired the student’s memory when assessed in the unfamiliar context, but not when assessed in the learning context (Schwabe L., and Wolf OT., 2009). In short, if your students can’t be in the test-givers room to learn the material, at least, bring them into the testing room and do a review there days before the event.

Combine for Positive Synergy

Remember, the science is solid when you consider each strategy separately. But combined, these strategies may help you get to the next level. As Chef Emeril would say they could give you “BAM!” power.

BONUS: Here’s what to do after the interim tests (but before the big “Standards Tests”). We know that reflection and meta thinking can be powerful. Debbie Barber, a sixth grade teacher at Ackerman Middle School in Canby, Oregon says, “My kids have a chance to improve their scores by doing a test autopsy. They correct their mistakes and then write a half page reflection on why they did so poorly and what they should have done differently. They earn a half point for each corrected answer. Not only do the parents love it, the test scores have improved and the students are really taking ownership of their work!”

This is the potential of smarter, targeted teaching. But you have to commit to the process and ensure that it gets done. Don’t let anyone say, “I’ve heard of all that!” Get your staff on board and start making miracles. Is this awesome or not?

Let’s cut to the chase: everything you do in your classroom is likely to have SOME effect on the brain. Brain-based education says, “Be purposeful about it.” Now, go have some fun and make another miracle happen!


  • Barker S, Grayhem P, Koon J, Perkins J, Whalen A, Raudenbush B. Improved
    performance on clerical tasks associated with administration of peppermint odor.
    Percept Mot Skills. 2003 Dec;97(3 Pt 1):1007-10.
  • Arnsten AF. Through the looking glass: differential noradrenergic modulation of prefrontal cortical function. Neural Plast. 2000;7:133–46. [PubMed]
  • Ciani KD, Sheldon KM. (2010) A versus F: the effects of implicit letter priming on cognitive performance. Br J Educ Psychol. Mar;80(Pt 1):99-119.
  • Fulkerson, F. E.; and G. Martin. 1981. Effects of exam frequency on student performance, evaluations of instructor, and test anxiety. Teaching of Psychology; April, 8(2): 90-93.
  • Krebs DL, Parent MB. (2005) The enhancing effects of hippocampal infusions of glucose are not restricted to spatial working memory. Neurobiol Learn Mem. Mar;83(2):168-72.
  • Luciana, M., Collins, PF and RA Depue (1998) Opposing roles for dopamine and serotonin in the modulation of human spatial working memory function Cerebral Cortex Volume 8, Number 3, Pp. 218-226.
  • Schwabe, L, Wolf OT. (2009) The context counts: congruent learning and testing
    environments prevent memory retrieval impairment following stress. Cogn Affect
    Behav Neurosci. Sep;9(3):229-36.
  • Ramirez G, Beilock, SL. Writing about testing worries boosts exam performance
    in the classroom. Science. 2011 Jan 14;331(6014):211-3.

One Response to “What Research Can Help Your Students Score Higher on the Upcoming BIG Tests?”

  1. Karen McCollister

    Consider the implications to students in small group testing. This is powerful information.


Senior Raiyan Nasim beams as the panel judging his portfolio defense at Los Angeles High School of the Arts gives him a passing grade.

Should high school students have to ‘defend’ their diploma like a Ph.D?

California’s new way of ranking school performance could open the door to portfolio assessments

Seniors at Los Angeles High School of the Arts work on their graduation portfolios in Isabel Morales’s social studies class.

Seniors at Los Angeles High School of the Arts work on their graduation portfolios in Isabel Morales’s social studies class. LOS ANGELES — Looking smart in a blue button-down shirt, Jorge Magana, 18, zipped through a PowerPoint presentation with the confidence of a Fortune 500 CEO.

Seated in front of Magana in a classroom at Los Angeles High School of the Arts was a panel of three judges: the school’s assistant principal, a school coordinator, and a former student. The occasion was his senior defense. Magana was trying to convince the panel that he was ready to graduate.

He had 45 minutes to present a portfolio of three “artifacts,” one academic, one artistic, and one of his own choosing. The panel grilled him: Can you describe your research process? Which obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them? How will the skills you learned help with your future plans?

Portfolio assessments like this one, which look a lot like doctoral dissertation defenses, are on the rise in California. The practice, touted by educators nationwide as a proven path to college success, has largely been squeezed out by standardized tests, the quicker, less-costly measure of student performance. But the state’s reliance on test scores to rank school performance is about to change, and educators see an opportunity.

Since 1999, California has primarily tied school rankings to test scores, using the Academic Performance Index (API). Since its repeal in July 2013, the three-digit ranking has been undergoing revision. On the new API, which will debut in the 2015-2016 school year, test scores will account for only 60 percent of a school’s ranking. The other 40 percent will factor in graduation data and “proof of readiness for college and career.” Portfolio assessment can supply this data. The tricky part is convincing skeptics that these assessments are reliable.

Zaira Gutierrez puts the finishing touches on her graduation portfolio in Isabel Morales’s 12th grade social studies class at Los Angeles High School of the Arts.

Zaira Gutierrez puts the finishing touches on her graduation portfolio in Isabel Morales’s 12th grade social studies class at Los Angeles High School of the Arts. 

Magana’s presentation seemed to come off smoothly. He started with the personal statement he wrote for AP English about his father’s alcoholism and its effect on his family. Then he presented a model of a set for the play “Electricidad” that he built for Advanced Scenic Design class. He finished with a policy memo he wrote for AP Government on the high cost of rehab.

But when the panel asked him specific questions, Magana stalled.

“What policies already exist to help those who can’t afford rehab?” asked Cathy Kwan, the high school coordinator who is developing the portfolio model. She schedules the defenses, recruits panel members, and trains teachers.

Magana fell silent and looked off to the side. He had just argued in the memo that the price tag for alcohol rehab is prohibitive for minimum wage earners and that there should be policies in place to ensure alcoholics can get the help they need free of charge.

“I did research that,” he said. “But I can’t remember.”

Magana stepped outside the classroom while the panel evaluated his performance. The judges agreed his presentation skills were solid: he made eye contact, he knew how to hold the audience’s attention, and he was organized. But he failed to demonstrate content knowledge and sound research skills. Assistant principal Matthew Hein pointed out a “classic bad research move,” Magana’s admission that he “dismissed research that didn’t fit his opinion.”

The verdict: Magana would have to rewrite the policy memo and defend his work again.

This is only the second year Los Angeles High School of the Arts has required its seniors to do portfolio defenses. The seriousness of the process and the amount of work it takes hasn’t yet sunk in. “Students didn’t really take the defenses seriously enough,” says Kwan reflecting on this year’s presentations. “They thought we were just going to let them pass. They’d say to me, ‘I got this.’ And I’d tell them, ‘No, you don’t. You have to practice.’”

Making Portfolio Assessments Reliable

Cathy Kwan (middle) discusses a senior’s portfolio defense with assistant principal Matthew Hein (left) and Otoniel Ceballos, a recent graduate of Los Angeles High School of the Arts.

Cathy Kwan (middle) discusses a senior’s portfolio defense with assistant principal Matthew Hein (left) and Otoniel Ceballos, a recent graduate of Los Angeles High School of the Arts. 

Kwan is struggling with the difficulty facing any educator hoping to use the portfolio model: defining a standard approach to evaluation. Harvard education professor Daniel Koretz knows this difficulty firsthand. He studied the portfolio models of Kentucky and Vermont in the 1990s, when those states were trying to replace standardized tests with portfolio assessments. The criteria for what makes a good portfolio, Koretz found, can vary widely from school to school, making comparisons difficult.

“The standardized assessment is standardized precisely so that there is nothing extraneous that differs between kids or between schools,” he says.

This problem has sent educators in California searching for an objectivity not usually associated with portfolio assessment.

A recent report from Stanford University professors Soung Bae and Linda Darling-Hammond promotes graduation portfolios as one measure of how well schools prepare students for college. The authors recommend that the state allow schools to use “well-designed” portfolios, comprised of work from each of five different subject areas to include research essays, art work and other sophisticated projects that can’t be captured on a test in place of traditional exit exams.

“There’s an openness in the legislature [to consider] what would be more indicative of college and career readiness than sitting down and filling in a multiple-choice Scantron,” says Darling-Hammond. “Some say U.S. kids are the most tested and the least examined in the world. We have a lot of tests, but we don’t have high-quality examinations of thinking and performance.”

Aiming to test the digital portfolio as a way of producing reliable data, Stanford’s Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) has teamed up with ConnectEd, a Berkeley-based organization that promotes a mix of academic and career-centered school programs called “linked learning.”

Senior Raiyan Nasim beams as the panel judging his portfolio defense at Los Angeles High School of the Arts gives him a passing grade.

Senior Raiyan Nasim beams as the panel judging his portfolio defense at Los Angeles High School of the Arts gives him a passing grade. 

The resulting online tool, ConnectEd Studios, tries to take the subjectivity out of evaluating portfolios. Students can earn digital badges for completing performance tasks. A student writing an argumentative essay, for example, can upload the essay to the site, where his teacher can evaluate the writing according to a scoring rubric with criteria for grading. A series of dots represents the progress of the essay: red dot (ungraded), purple dot (not proficient), and green dot (proficient). When the essay is deemed proficient, the student earns a badge.

“We see these badges as data nuggets,” says Dave Yanofsky, director of strategic communications for ConnectEd. “If done right, digital badges give you both the qualitative and quantitative component. It’s not just that the student turned in the work and got a pat on the back. These badges show that students turned in work that is up to the level of quality we established.”

The development of reliable portfolio assessments could have huge implications for how we judge school effectiveness, not just in California but nationwide. Yanofsky estimates that 20 school districts, including Houston and Philadelphia, have expressed interest in working with ConnectEd to build their portfolio programs.

The expectation is that an online platform like ConnectEd Studios would create a secure place for students to share videos, audio files, photos, writing samples, digital badges, resumes, and letters of recommendation, showcasing their qualifications for universities and potential employers.

“Students can sell themselves short,” says Nadia Schafer, a digital specialist with Philadelphia Academies, a nonprofit that works with area high schools to provide students with career training and college preparation. “But the portfolio shows them all that they’ve accomplished. A portfolio tells their stories so much better than just a resume ever could.”

Related: Can we really prepare kids for both college and career?

Jorge Magana poses with his mother after earning a diploma from Los Angeles High School of the Arts. He failed his portfolio defense, but passed it on a second try.

Jorge Magana poses with his mother after earning a diploma from Los Angeles High School of the Arts. He failed his portfolio defense, but passed it on a second try. 

For now, the goal at the Los Angeles Unified school district is to make the portfolio defense a graduation requirement. Ten high schools are piloting the initiative, and there are plans to get more schools on board next school year.

“Students have improved immensely since we first started,” says Kwan. “But it still wouldn’t be fair to hold them back based on the defense. We haven’t yet learned how to prepare kids adequately to do this.”

Half of the Los Angeles Unified schools testing portfolio defenses have partnered with Envision Schools, a network of three small charter high schools in the San Francisco area that has systematized the portfolio model over the past 13 years and can provide step-by-step instructions on how to build a portfolio program. L.A. teachers traveled to San Francisco to watch the Envision students’ defend their portfolios and to get training on how to critique them. Envision has shared videos of model defenses and scoring rubrics that L.A. teachers can revise to suit their schools’ specific needs.

Can Portfolios Make the Grade?

At first, many teachers at Los Angeles High School of the Arts thought the defense was an unnecessary torture. Then, they actually witnessed a defense.

“When you see your students reflect on what they’ve learned, and see how that learning has affected them, it’s hard to say this isn’t a good idea,” says Isabel Morales, a 12th grade social studies teacher. “Watching the defenses taught me how much my lessons count, how crucial it is for me to provide a transformative learning experience for my students.”

Morales says students can simply “go through the motions” in class, taking in information without really retaining it. But portfolio defenses force them to explain what they’ve learned, and to apply it in different ways; for instance, Magana tackled the issue of alcoholism as a statement on policy and in a personal statement. Since the portfolio program started, Morales has discovered that the best preparation for a portfolio defense is for students to share their work and reflections on what they learned in the process, something she didn’t always make time to do.

Realizations like this one are the most important outcomes of the defenses, according to Tom Skjervheim, associate director at ConnectEd. In fact, when Skjervheim views a defense, he finds himself evaluating the teacher more than the student. “The portfolio defenses shed a light for teachers on what they should be doing in professional development,” he says. “They allow teachers to think about how they might tighten up their practices and get the results they want from students.”

According to a survey of students at Los Angeles High School of the Arts, 90 percent of students who passed and 68 percent of students who failed said the portfolio defense was a “worthwhile experience.” Magana, who passed his second defense a week later, says he’s learned from his mistakes and won’t repeat them at the University of California Riverside, where he’ll major in computer science this fall.

“I’m worried that in college I won’t have anyone there to push me,” Magana says. “But I have this experience to refer back to. I will remember this. I won’t allow myself to fail again.”

Kwan is already planning ways to make the experience more worthwhile next year, including training teachers to revamp their lessons. She thinks teachers need to tell kids up front what they’re going to learn and why they’re learning it. “This isn’t as common as you might think,” says Kwan. “Kids often don’t know why they do assignments.”

Students will also get more opportunities to practice their presentations before the big day. Groups of four will be assigned a mentor teacher who will critique their portfolios and presentations. Eleventh graders will assist during senior defenses, by switching slides or serving as panelists, gaining a sense of what will be expected of them the next year. Tenth graders will participate in mini-defenses in front of their classes.

While Kwan is intent on perfecting the process, she worries that portfolio assessment could become rote in pursuit of data. The Envision Schools have the defenses “down to a science,” she says. Students start to sound robotic when they’re all saying the same things, she adds.

Success, for Kwan, depends on a continuous evaluation of the process, not on routine. What counts as a real demonstration of learning?

“Many visitors are impressed that students are speaking in front of an audience,” Kwan says. “They don’t notice that the presentation is disorganized or that the students are having trouble answering the judges’ questions. It’s not good enough that students face a difficult task. They have to go up there and have substance. Just because you show up to an interview doesn’t mean you get the job.”

Of the 92 seniors who defended their portfolios this year, 33 failed. Like Magana, they were scheduled to redo their presentations.

But, in the end, all students passed and nabbed diplomas.

“They worked their tushes off,” says Kwan. “Not one of them gave up.”

This story was written by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about California schools

ADHD Classroom Accommodations: Guide to Getting Special Services

Eight steps for meeting your child’s educational needs with ADHD accommodations at school.

Helping ADHD children learn through exploration and experience.
ADDitude Magazine

Be an advocate, not an adversary.

The process of securing academic accommodations for your child with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) can be confusing — and intimidating. Follow these eight steps to take the hassle out of establishing an IEP or 504 Plan…

1. Get an Accurate Evaluation

Write a letter requesting an evaluation to see if your ADHD child might benefit from academic accommodations.

Address it to the chairperson of the Committee on Special Education Services – aka the Director of Special Education Services. (It’s often a waste of time to send the letter to the child’s teachers, guidance counselor, or principal.)

Should the school decline your request, or if you’re dissatisfied with the evaluation’s findings, arrange for a private ADHD evaluation. (In some circumstances, the school may have to pay for the outside assessment.)

TIP: Send your letter by certified mail or hand-deliver it and keep a dated proof of receipt for your records.

2. Meet With the Evaluation Team

A school-sponsored evaluation is conducted by a multidisciplinary team — including special-education teachers, the school psychologist, and other professionals. As part of the process, they’ll want to meet with you to learn more about how your ADHD child functions in school.

Team members will review your child’s academic records, conduct a behavioral assessment, and observe her in the classroom. Following the assessment, you will discuss the results with the evaluation team and together you will decide whether your child needs special-education services to address how ADHD impacts her ability to learn.

TIP: Bring copies of your child’s report cards, standardized test results, and medical records, as well as a log of your communications with the school and other professionals to the meeting. (See our checklist of academic records that every parent should keep!)

3. Decide Which Laws Are Applicable

Two federal laws provide for free, public special education services: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act.

IDEA covers kids with very specific conditions, including mental retardation, emotional disturbances, hearing impairments, and speech and language difficulties. Kids may qualify for coverage if they frequently have one of these problems in addition to attention deficit. Some qualify under another IDEA category: Other Health Impairments. If your child’s ADHD is so severe that he’s unable to learn in a regular classroom, he may qualify.

Section 504 covers ADHD kids who don’t qualify for special-ed services under IDEA, but who need extra help in the classroom. The law prohibits schools from discriminating against students because of physical and mental impairments. Just as the school must provide ramps for kids in wheelchairs, it must make modifications (such as preferential seating, extra time on tests, or help with note taking) for kids with brain-based learning barriers.

FYI: If the team decides your child doesn’t need special ed, you’re entitled to appeal your case in a “due-process” hearing – a legal proceeding that often requires legal representation for the family, testimony from independent experts, and a review of meeting transcripts, test scores, and other documents.

4. Develop a Plan

If your child qualifies under IDEA, you should meet with the team to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which specifies your child’s educational goals and how those goals will be met in the ‘least restrictive environment’ – which generally refers to a regular classroom.

Parents must be assertive. Make sure the IEP spells out exactly how the school will help your child meet his goals, which should be specific, measurable, and achievable.

Include time limits: “By month three, James will reduce his interruptions from 10 per day to 2 per day.” The IEP should explain exactly how James will be taught to stop interrupting. Unless the strategies are specified, there’s no way to enforce them.

If your child qualifies under Section 504, a school representative will help you and your child’s teacher compile a 504 Plan, or a written list of accommodations that must be followed at all times. Unlike an IEP, there are no legal requirements about what should be included in a 504 Plan, and the school isn’t required to involve the child’s parents in the process (although many schools do).

TIP: Learn more about writing and implementing an IEP – including required provisions and the evaluation-team composition – on the federal Education Department’s web site.

5. Insist on a Customized Plan

The school may try to tailor your child’s IEP around its existing programs, even though IDEA requires schools to customize the plan based on the child’s needs.

If you’re not satisfied with the IEP, don’t agree to it.

The school may offer something more, or you can request a due-process hearing. If you prevail, the school district may have to pay for your child’s education in another school that offers the needed services – even if it’s a private school.

TIP: For specific accommodation ideas, check ADDitude’s free Printable: Classroom Accommodations for School Children with ADHD.

6. Monitor Your Child’s Progress

By law, the educational team must meet annually to review your child’s IEP. Many school districts schedule the annual meeting in the spring, so that team members can review current strategies and your child’s progress, and set goals for the coming year.

You can request a meeting whenever you think one is needed – like the beginning of each school year. Your child’s progress during the summer, or the demands of the new grade, may necessitate plan changes.

If your child receives special services under a Section 504 Plan, the school is not required to hold an annual review or to involve parents in meetings. However, you may still request a meeting at any time, and many schools invite parents to participate in the process.

7. Create a Paper Trail

As you secure services for your child, put all requests, concerns, and thank-you’s in writing — and keep copies on file. A note asking the teacher for your child’s test scores can be valuable if you later have to document that the request went unmet.

After each IEP meeting and conference with school staff, summarize the main points in a letter to participants. This establishes a written record of what was said.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision underscored the importance of good record-keeping. The Court ruled that, in a due-process hearing, the legal burden of proving that a plan fails to meet a child’s needs falls on the parents. It’s more important than ever to document your child’s difficulties, to be assertive about receiving progress reports, and to push for changes to the IEP as the need arises.

8. Seek Support

If at any point you reach an impasse with school authorities – or if you just want an expert to accompany you to meetings – contact an educational advocate or attorney. Many offer free or low-cost consultation.

To find one in your area, look online at:


The Bridge Virtual Academy is happy to announce our $100 SPECIAL for either the SAT or ACT set of practices.  Fill out student registration from THE BRIDGE VIRTUAL ACADEMY drop-down menu and pay online.  Give us a start date.  Your time, your pace, your choice, your space!  SATACT_adguylist

CSUs transforming secondary math teachers

California State University Systemwide Effort to Improve the Preparation of Secondary Mathematics Teachers



Mathematics educators at 22 campuses of the California State University (CSU) system are embarking on a major initiative designed “to transform the preparation of secondary mathematics teachers to ensure they can promote mathematical excellence in their future students, leading to college and career readiness as described in the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and other documents” ( 


The new statewide effort is affiliated with the national Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership (MTE-Partnership), an initiative of the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI) of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). The initiative is significantly informed by the Mathematical Education of Teachers II document ( and utilizes a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) design, incorporating improvement science and networked design precepts. The July 4 issue of COMET described the goals of the effort and the initial meeting on June 23 at the CSU Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach (—4-july-2014). 


On October 10-11, faculty members from every CSU campus with a teacher preparation program and school district personnel convened at the CSU Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach to delve into the details of the MET-Partnership (referred to as “CSU MTEP”) and determine what role each of the campus teams wished to play in the faculty-led community though participation in one of five Research Action Clusters (RACs).


Lead presenters included MTE-Partnership Co-Directors W. Gary Martin (Auburn University) and Howard Gobstein (APLU), as well as the national chairs of the RACs, Paul LeMahieu of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, CSU faculty leads Brian Lawler and David Pagni, and CSU MTEP facilitator Joan Bissell, Director for Teacher Preparation and Public School Programs at the CSU Chancellor’s Office. (Photographs from each day may be accessed in the following Dropbox folder:


For more information about this initiative, please visit the CSU MTEP website at




Related Information: 


CSU K-12 STEM Partnerships Advancing the CCSS and NGSS


In addition to CSU MTEP, the California State University (CSU) Chancellor’s Office (CO) has taken a leadership or significant supportive role in several new initiatives designed to help transform the preparation of mathematics and science teachers across the state. Short overviews of two of these follow below:


Preparing a New Generation of Educators for California 


“Preparing a New Generation of Educators for California,” funded by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, is aimed at preparing world-class educators who are equipped to teach and implement the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) with excellence. For more on this initiative, visit


Federal Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grants of $53.7 Million to CSU Campuses for STEM Teacher Preparation


Seven CSU campuses (or a campus’s district partner) recently received large grants for STEM teacher preparation. Receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support major teacher preparation initiatives were CSU Bakersfield, Chico, Dominguez Hills, Fresno, Los Angeles, Monterey Bay, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. To learn more about this program, visit


California Online Mathematics Education Times (COMET)

Vol. 15, No. 7 – 28 October 2014


Editor: Carol Fry Bohlin –

COMET Archives (2000-2014):

California Mathematics Project


California Online Mathematics Education Times (COMET) is an electronic news bulletin providing STEM-related news from California and across the nation, as well as information about professional events and opportunities, current educational issues, and online resources.

August Calendar – Interesting!

Calendar August 2014
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat

1  2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

August will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays.  This happens only once every 823 years.  The Chinese call it ‘Silver pockets full.

Brain-based Research to Assist Students!

 This is still a top selling book on how learning best takes place in the classroom.  Download it from Amazon.  You won’t be sorry!


Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning is the first book for educators written by an author who is both a neurologist and a classroom teacher. Dr. Willis used her neurology expertise to examine the past two decades of learning-centered brain research. Using her background and experience as a clinical neurologist and neuroscience researcher, she sifted through the abundance of neuroimaging and brain mapping information. She assessed what information was both valid and relevant to education. She then employed her training and experience as a classroom teacher to provide strategies for implementing the best of this research in the classroom. She brings this knowledge to life in a comprehensive and accessible style.

Teachers will be introduced to strategies that will work in their own classrooms. These strategies will help teachers improve student memory, learning, and test-taking success. Teachers will also learn how to captivate and hold students’ attention.

Dr. Willis takes a reader-friendly approach to neuroscience, describing instructional strategies that are adaptable for grades K through 12. Through statistical data, individual student stories, and her own experiences using these strategies with elementary and middle school students, Dr. Willis provides teachers with a wealth of information they will want to start using in their classrooms before finishing the book.

The book includes learning strategies that have come from research about how stress and emotion affect learning. Willis describes assessment techniques that not only assess authentically and with diversity, but also teach while assessing. This book will become one that teachers will return to again and again to pick up new strategies to make their ow