Laboratory Freezers for Keeping All of the Important Things

If you think that freezer is only used to store all of the frozen foods, then you are wrong since nowadays you can find many laboratories are using the freezers to store all of their supplies and stocks. However, the things that they put inside the freezer are of course different from the things that you usually tore inside your freezer. If you are looking to buy the laboratory freezer, then you might need to know some of these things first to make sure you are buying the proper freezer for your laboratory needs.

The first one is the size of the freezer that you need. This one is important since you need to know how much space that you need in your freezer and how many things that you will put inside the freezer. When you want to put many things, then you will need the big freezer for your laboratory. The second one is the simplicity. For some reason, a lot of things inside your laboratory need the specific space and areas inside the freezer. That means, it will be better for you to pick the kind of freezer with some partition so that you can put all of the things that you need to put neatly inside the freezer.

The next one is the quality of the freezer. For this special case, it will be better for you to pick the kind of freezer with a great temperature difference. That means, you can set the temperature as hot as possible but you can also set it as cold as possible. That will be better for you to get the kind of freezer that you can use to put many things that you have in your laboratory. Hope all of those considerations can help you get the best freezer for your laboratory.

 

Seattle’s new elementaries would be among state’s biggest most expensive

This month, Washington state’s two largest school districts are each asking voters for hundreds of millions of dollars to build, repair and upgrade schools.

Measures on Tuesday’s ballot in Seattle and Tacoma would each fund dozens of construction projects over the next decade, with both districts focusing on rebuilding old elementary schools.

But while Tacoma officials are requesting about $30 million for each of the eight elementaries in their proposal, Seattle is seeking about $42 million apiece for the six it wants to build.

The considerable cost differences illustrate how widely school-construction spending varies in Washington — and how Seattle Public Schools spends far more than other school districts in the state.

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A Seattle Times analysis found that the average price tag of the elementary schools in Seattle’s levy proposal is at least 20 percent higher than every similar project approved in the state in recent years.

The reason?

The buildings in Seattle’s proposal would be among the biggest elementary schools ever built in Washington — even though they would hold only slightly more students than average.

Put another way, each student at a new Seattle elementary would get more space — in the classroom, the gym and, according to floor-plan comparisons, especially in the library — than students at other districts.

Seattle’s proposal also includes above-average spending on planning and design.

The proposal comes as lawmakers are once again debating how to better fund the public-school system. Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom has said school districts should focus less on construction and more on what takes place inside the buildings.

The state does not keep a database of school-construction costs, and most districts don’t compare themselves to others.

Seattle school officials said their proposed buildings would be bigger than average because the district needs to add capacity to address overcrowding.

The officials declined to address comparisons related to per student building sizes, saying they suspected the data from other districts was inaccurate.

They also said their proposals are near national averages for building size and were carefully planned to meet Seattle’s needs.

“Seattle Public Schools has a fast-growing enrollment and levy funding, if approved, will pay for capital and technology projects throughout the region to ensure our students have safe and healthy school buildings,” district spokeswoman Lesley Rogers wrote in an email.

Edward Peters, a parent and construction expert who chairs a committee that advises Seattle school officials on levy projects, said bigger buildings benefit students.

“You do the best you can with the resources you have, and Seattle’s tax base allows it to build big,” said Peters, who lives in Seattle but manages the Edmonds School District construction department. “If kids are learning, that’s the whole point.”

8,000 more seats

In all, Seattle’s six-year, $695 million construction levy would repair or replace 17 aging buildings, upgrade technology districtwide and add nearly 8,000 seats.

It is appearing on the ballot alongside a three-year, $552 million operations levy that would fund a quarter of the district’s annual operating budget.

The construction levy would cost the owner of a $400,000 home about $100 more per year than the current rate, which is $285.

Among other projects, it would fund a new elementary on the Thornton Creek campus and total rebuilds of five elementaries: Arbor Heights, Genesee Hill, Olympic Hills, Wilson-Pacific and Wing Luke.

Four of the elementaries would hold 650 students each; Arbor Heights and Wing Luke would be built for 500 students with core facilities to allow for easy expansion to 650.

Seattle estimates the schools would cost between $38.9 million (Genesee Hill) and $43.2 million (Wing Luke).

That would make them Washington’s six most-expensive public-elementary schools in years.

By comparison, rural-school districts over the past three years have been asking for about $20 million for new elementaries, according to election records.

Suburban districts have been requesting about $30 million.

What drives the price?

How can an elementary school cost $42 million?

Local contractors say school-construction costs are driven by five major factors.

The first is building size, which is determined largely by special classrooms, the gym, library and cafeteria.

The four 650-student elementaries in Seattle’s proposal would be 91,000 square feet each.

The size is multiplied by construction cost per square foot: in Seattle’s proposal, $225 per square foot.

Then there are specific site costs, like demolishing the old building, redeveloping the playground and putting in new sidewalks.

In Seattle’s proposal, those add up to between $3 million and $5 million per school.

Inflation adds about 3 percent per year, or about $3.5 million per building for Seattle.

Finally, there are “soft costs,” for planning, design, permitting, taxes and reserves.

Seattle says its soft costs would be 51.75 percent of its construction costs, adding about $14 million.

Ninety-one thousand times $225, plus $4 million, plus $3.5 million, plus $14 million?

Forty-two million dollars.

Seattle school officials defended the accuracy of their calculations, citing detailed planning.

“There’s a lot of due diligence that’s been done here,” said Kirk Robinson, the Puget Sound area’s most experienced cost estimator, whom Seattle hired for the levy.

Robinson attributed the above-average pricetags to three of the five factors:

• Construction is more expensive in Seattle, he said, and the district favors long-lasting buildings that cost more up front.

But cost breakdowns provided by more than a dozen districts in the region show that Seattle’s construction costs aren’t actually above average. Many districts, including Tacoma, use $225 per square foot to estimate costs.

• Robinson also said Seattle faces above-average inflation because its levy would build schools far in the future.

But Tacoma’s construction timeline is very similar to Seattle’s, and several suburban districts aren’t far off.

• Finally, Robinson argued that Seattle’s proposed buildings would encounter unique site challenges, including a $1 million traffic light the district may be required to install outside Thornton Creek.

Unseen costs

High soft costs are also playing a role.

While Seattle’s proposal puts soft costs at 51.75 percent of construction costs, Tacoma and others estimate 45 percent.

Using 45 percent would lower Seattle’s costs by about $2 million per school, but Robinson said it’s not feasible.

“People do it, but I don’t know how,” he said.

He explained the costs in part by pointing to strict permitting requirements in Seattle.

But Ken Snyder, the longtime president of Graham Contracting, called permitting fees “peanuts.”

Snyder, who has built schools in Seattle and elsewhere, attributed Seattle’s high soft costs to a bureaucratic process and reliance on outside consultants.

“They don’t exactly run things lean down there,” he said.

It comes down to size

The biggest factor driving Seattle’s pricey proposal, according to cost breakdowns, is building size.

The 91,000-square-foot schools in the proposal would be the largest elementaries built in Washington since 1990, according to an Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction database.

Most new elementaries are about 65,000 square feet, according to the database.

A more precise and widely used measure, building square feet per student, also shows Seattle as an outlier.

Seattle’s 91,000-square-foot schools would have 140 square feet per student (its other two elementaries would have 166 square feet per student).

Most Washington districts are planning schools with about 115 square feet per student, according to breakdowns provided by more than a dozen districts.

OSPI’s standard is 125.

Portland used 129 in a 2011 bond that failed due to widespread concerns about cost.

Tacoma is planning for 118 — a 22-square-foot-per-student difference from Seattle that translates to nearly $6 million per school.

Seattle school officials noted their square footage per student is only slightly above national norms, and their buildings would include 3,100 square feet of child-care facilities some districts don’t provide.

But the buildings would also have bigger-than-average libraries and gyms, according to floor plans from several districts.

In Seattle’s 91,000-square-foot buildings, for example, the libraries would be 5,300 square feet and the gyms would be 9,100 square feet.

Tacoma’s proposal calls for libraries of 1,800 square feet and gyms of 3,900 square feet.

Magical Transformation to Digital is not Magic

Magical. That was the word that came to mind after a visit last week to Huntsville, Alabama to check in on the amazing transformation from print to digital learning that has occurred there just since the start of school. Today is Digital Learning Day, which highlights success stories in digital learning. Huntsville is one of them. Educators from all over the country have been flocking there since last fall, when word of the district’s 1:1 Learning Initiative began to get out. “We’re the largest school district in the world that is all digital,” Superintendent Casey Wardynski shared with reporters. “The whole world is looking at Huntsville right now.”

Watch a great video on the deployment

And well they should. A year after he was hired the Huntsville school board approved Wardynski’s plan to purchase digital curricula instead of textbooks and laptops, netbooks, and iPads for students and teachers. Computer networks were set up in schools and WiFi installed on school buses and in public areas of the city. Today, after extensive training, teachers can engage their students using interactive texts, videos, animations, and other tools. Digital assessments help identify strengths and weaknesses and personalize lessons for each student. Students can learn anytime, anywhere.

As we toured two campuses and then listened to students, teachers, parents and the president of the school board, I was struck by several themes. First, going from all-print to all-digital so quickly and successfully requires strong leadership. That is exemplified by Wardynski, his leadership team and HCS school principals. Wardynski’s unique background prepared him well for system-wide change. He has a Ph.D. in policy analysis, taught economics at West Point, earned the rank of colonel, and headed up the Army’s office of Economic and Manpower Analysis. He also led the creation of America’s Army, a digital game with 12 million users that revolutionized Army recruitment and human capital management.

When he came to Huntsville, Wardynski wanted students to get more instructional time and one-on-one attention. In going digital, the goal wasn’t to give students and teachers devices. The goal was to improve learning. This is one lesson I’m sure the visiting educators took home with them. Don’t spend millions on devices unless you have a plan for using them to aid teaching and learning.

Another lesson was the need to work with a specialized partner. The district chose Pearson as its 1:1 Learning partner to provide support for pretty much every aspect of its conversion, with the shared objectives of accelerating student achievement and shifting instructional practice. As the person leading Pearson’s efforts to help districts enter the digital age, I frequently have the opportunity to help with this important work.

Perhaps my favorite part of the visit was listening to an AP English teacher named Stephanie Hyatt talk about how the Pearson digital curriculum resources and other tools had “absolutely changed” her teaching and made it more powerful. As an example, she told the story of how she capitalized on President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January. She had students work in groups to identify examples of imagery, diction and other rhetorical elements of the inaugural speech President Kennedy gave in 1960, posting the assignment on the collaboration system called Edmodo. On another day, she had the groups compare that speech with President Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address. Then, after President Obama’s speech, she asked them to compare it with the other two. But, this time, she threw her students something of a curveball. She knew from monitoring their work online that some students weren’t contributing much to their groups. So, she put those who were slacking off together. They could no longer rely on more productive students to carry the burden.

The Huntsville newspaper quoted her saying that “the kids (who hadn’t done the work) had a deep hole to dig themselves out of.” They also learned that Hyatt was paying attention to their work—just as educators across the country are paying attention to what she and her colleagues are doing for kids in Huntsville.

Teacher shortage ‘costing millions in supply staff

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Teachers’ union leaders are warning that teacher shortages are costing schools hundreds of millions of pounds in temporary supply staff.

The National Union of Teachers says schools in England spent £733m last year on supply teacher agencies.

The union says it is wasting money intended for children’s education.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is launching a TV recruitment campaign to attract a “new generation of passionate and gifted teachers”.

Head teachers have been reporting deepening problems with getting enough staff.

The Department for Education has launched a television advertising campaign to encourage more applications, saying that 35,000 trainee teachers need to be recruited every year.

Cash incentives

There are particular problems in finding teachers in subjects such as physics, and the government is offering increasingly generous bursaries.

A physics graduate with a good degree can claim up to £30,000 tax free for entering teaching.

Image copyright DFE

Image caption A TV advert is being launched to attract more people into teaching

“Great teachers are at the heart of our drive to extend opportunity to every single child,” says Mrs Morgan.

“That is why we are focused on attracting more talented people into the profession, to inspire young people, open doors to their future.”

The teachers’ union argues that the difficulty in recruiting teachers means schools are forced to use their budgets on supply staff – and that these temporary staff are not receiving the same pay and benefits as full-time teachers.

“Supply teacher agencies are making millions while supply teachers’ pay continues to plummet,” said NUT leader Christine Blower.

“This is money which should be used for children’s education, not going towards boosting the profits of private companies.”

Short-notice cover

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation rejected the NUT claims as unfair and said schools with vacancies “rely on their recruitment partners to bring in quality teachers, often at very short notice”.

“Agencies charge a daily rate for temporary contracts and the majority of this will go directly to the teacher. It is up to schools, agencies and teachers to negotiate pay rates and this can vary according to location and other factors such as how much experience the teacher has,” said head of policy Kate Shoesmith.

She said agencies “typically take between 15-30% cent of the fee”.

Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Heads are increasingly forced to rely on supply agencies because they can’t find permanent staff in time.

“This creates real problems with continuity and coherence, particularly important with vulnerable children. It is also expensive at a time of increasing budget pressures.

“If the recruitment pressures continue, more drastic measures are just around the corner, including appointing non-qualified staff, narrowing the curriculum or increasing class size.”

Labour’s shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said that school budgets are already under pressure, but “head teachers are turning to agencies in desperation to fill the gap”.

“Ministers need to take real action to recruit and retain teachers in sufficient numbers to tackle the crisis in schools which is threatening standards.”

Teachers flip for ‘flipped learning’ class model

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — When Timmy Nguyen comes to his pre-calculus class, he’s already learned the day’s lesson — he watched it on a short online video prepared by his teacher for homework.

So without a lecture to listen to, he and his classmates at Segerstrom Fundamental High School spend class time doing practice problems in small groups, taking quizzes, explaining the concept to other students, reciting equation formulas in a loud chorus, and making their own videos while teacher Crystal Kirch buzzes from desk to desk to help pupils who are having trouble.

It’s a technology-driven teaching method known as “flipped learning” because it flips the time-honored model of classroom lecture and exercises for homework — the lecture becomes homework and class time is for practice.

“It was hard to get used to,” said Nguyen, an 11th-grader. “I was like ‘why do I have to watch these videos, this is so dumb.’ But then I stopped complaining and I learned the material quicker. My grade went from a D to an A.”

Flipped learning apparently is catching on in schools across the nation as a younger, more tech-savvy generation of teachers is moving into classrooms. Although the number of “flipped” teachers is hard to ascertain, the online community Flipped Learning Network now has 10,000 members, up from 2,500 a year ago, and training workshops are being held all over the country, said executive director Kari Afstrom.

Under the model, teachers make eight- to 10-minute videos of their lessons using laptops, often simply filming the whiteboard as the teacher makes notations and recording their voice as they explain the concept. The videos are uploaded onto a teacher or school website, or even YouTube, where they can be accessed by students on computers or smartphones as homework.

For pupils lacking easy access to the Internet, teachers copy videos onto DVDs or flash drives. Kids with no home device watch the video on school computers.

Class time is then devoted to practical applications of the lesson — often more creative exercises designed to engage students and deepen their understanding. On a recent afternoon, Kirch’s students stood in pairs with one student forming a cone shape with her hands and the other angling an arm so the “cone” was cut into different sections.

“It’s a huge transformation,” said Kirch, who has been taking this approach for two years. “It’s a student-focused classroom where the responsibility for learning has flipped from me to the students.”

The concept emerged five years ago when a pair of Colorado high school teachers started videotaping their chemistry classes for absent students.

“We found it was really valuable and pushed us to ask what the students needed us for,” said one of the teachers, Aaron Sams, now a consultant who is developing on online education program in Pittsburgh. “They didn’t need us for content dissemination, they needed us to dig deeper.”

He and colleague Jonathan Bergmann began condensing classroom lectures to short videos and assigning them as homework.

“The first year, I was able to double the number of labs my students were doing,” Sams said. “That’s every science teacher’s dream.”

In the Detroit suburb of Clinton Township, Clintondale High School Principal Greg Green converted the whole school to flipped learning in the fall of 2011 after years of frustration with high failure rates and discipline problems. Three-quarters of the school’s enrollment of 600 is low-income, minority students.

Flipping yielded dramatic results after just a year, including a 33% drop in the freshman failure rate and a 66% drop in the number of disciplinary incidents from the year before, Green said. Graduation, attendance and test scores all went up. Parent complaints dropped from 200 to seven.

Green attributed the improvements to an approach that engages students more in their classes.

“Kids want to take an active part in the learning process,” he said. “Now teachers are actually working with kids.”

Although the method has been more popular in high schools, it’s now catching on in elementary schools, said Afstrom of the Flipped Learning Network.

Fifth-grade teacher Lisa Highfill in the Pleasanton Unified School District said for a lesson about adding decimals, she made a five-minute, how-to video kids watched at home and in class, then she distributed play money and menus and had kids “ordering” food and tallying the bill and change.

A colleague who teaches kindergarten reads a storybook on video. The video contains a pop-up box that requires kids to write something that shows they understood the story.

The concept has its downside. Teachers note that making the videos and coming up with project activities to fill class time is a lot of extra work up front, while some detractors believe it smacks of teachers abandoning their primary responsibility of instructing.

“They’re expecting kids to do the learning outside the classroom. There’s not a lot of evidence this works,” said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, a New York City-based parent advocacy group. “What works is reasonably sized classes with a lot of debate, interaction and discussion.”

Others question whether flipped learning would work as well with low achieving students, who may not be as motivated to watch lessons on their own, but said it was overall a positive model.

“It’s forcing the notion of guided practice,” said Cynthia Desrochers, director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at California State University-Northridge. “Students can get the easy stuff on their own, but the hard stuff should be under the watchful eye of a teacher.”

At Michigan’s Clintondale High School, some teachers show the video at the beginning of class to ensure all kids watch it and that home access is not an issue.

In Kirch’s pre-calculus class, students said they liked the concept.

“You’re not falling asleep in class, “said senior Monica Resendiz said. “You’re constantly working.”

Explaining to adults that homework was watching videos was a little harder, though.

“My grandma thought I was using it as an excuse to mess around on the Internet,” Nguyen said.

Gates Foundation study We’ve figured out what makes a good teacher

Even as most of the nation’s 15,000 public school districts roll out new systems to evaluate teachers, many are still struggling with a central question: What’s the best way to identify an effective educator?

After a three-year, $45 million research project, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation believes it has some answers.

The most reliable way to evaluate teachers is to use a three-pronged approach built on student test scores, classroom observations by multiple reviewers and teacher evaluations from students themselves, the foundation found.

“We identified groups of teachers who caused students to learn more,” said Thomas J. Kane, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and principal investigator of the Gates study, also known as the Measures of Effective Teaching project.

The findings released Tuesday involved an analysis of about 3,000 teachers and their students in Charlotte; Dallas; Denver; Memphis; New York; Pittsburgh; and Hillsborough County, Fla., which includes Tampa. Researchers were drawn from the Educational Testing Service and several universities, including Harvard, Stanford and the University of Virginia.

The large-scale study is the first to demonstrate that it is possible to identify great teaching, the foundation said.

Researchers videotaped 3,000 participating teachers and experts analyzed their classroom performance. They also ranked the teachers using a statistical model known as value-added modeling, which calculates how much an educator has helped students learn based on their academic performance over time. And finally, the researchers surveyed the students, who turned out to be reliable judges of their teacher’s abilities, Kane said.

They used all that data to identify teachers who seemed effective. And then they randomly assigned students to those teachers for an academic year.

The teachers who seemed to be effective were, in fact, able to repeat those successes with different students in different years, the researchers found. Their students not only scored well on standardized exams but also were able to handle more complicated tests of their conceptual math knowledge and reading and writing abilities.

Researchers found that multiple classroom observations of teachers by several people — a principal, a peer, an outside expert — result in the most accurate assessments. Many school districts currently rely on observations by just one person, usually a principal.

The Gates Foundation hopes that states and school districts will use the research to create evaluation systems to help teachers improve, not just in hiring and firing decisions, said Vicki Phillips, who directs its college-ready education programs in the United States.

Denver is already doing so, said Tom Boasberg, superintendent of the Denver public schools. “There’s not some clear dividing line in the middle, with some folks on one side who are clearly not effective teachers and some on the other who are clearly effective,” he said. “You have a lot of folks in the middle who want to get better. The key is to use multiple measures and feedback to help them get better in this enormously complex job.”

For decades, teacher evaluations were little more than a formality in most school systems, with most educators getting top ratings based on little more than a principal’s checklist. Tenure, rather than student achievement, largely determined whether a teacher was rehired at the end of a school year.

But reformers have been pressing for evaluations that judge teachers at least in part on how well their students perform on tests. The Obama administration has accelerated that change by requiring states to adopt such evaluation systems to compete for Race to the Top funds or to receive waivers from No Child Left Behind, the federal education law.

Critics have said that some of the new evaluation systems place an unhealthy emphasis on test scores.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the findings from the Gates study “reinforce the importance of evaluating teachers based on a balance of multiple measures of teaching effectiveness, in contrast to the limitations of focusing on student test scores, value-added scores or any other single measure.”

Teacher Quality Not Linked to Advanced Degrees or Experience

An advanced degree and multiple years of teaching experience don’t necessarily make for a better teacher. A new study from the Tennessee Department of Education shows that teachers with these qualities, which traditionally increase teacher salaries, do not increase what children learn over teachers without them.

“Previous research has consistently shown there is little to no correlation between teacher graduate degrees and effectiveness” as measured by what children learn in a school year, said Kelli Gauthier, a Tennessee Department of Education spokeswoman. ”Similarly, research has shown that teacher effectiveness is not correlated with experience after the first five years in the classroom. This study reinforces those results. We have highly effective teachers who have master’s degrees and highly effective teachers who do not. We have highly effective teachers with many years of classroom experience and highly effective teachers with relatively few years in the classroom.”

This study is “important news,” said John Chubb, a Hoover Institution fellow and author of The Best Teachers in the World, because, unlike economists, education authorities have hardly studied the relationship between teacher quality and inputs like degrees and experience.

“At a time when school districts are struggling to make ends meet with fewer state and local tax revenues, it is especially important that districts ensure their compensation systems are aligned with the goal of student achievement, and therefore reward the most successful teachers—regardless of degrees or experience—and not pay based on factors that do not predict student success,” he said.

Skewed Incentives
The common practice of tying salary hikes to advanced degrees and extra college credits means “teachers tend to take the fastest, cheapest route to earning a master’s degree,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. “A far better system would be one which rewards teachers for being effective, with teachers themselves identifying the specific coursework that would help them become more effective.”

Salary schedules also push bright young people away from teaching, Walsh said, because they are confident in their abilities and want to earn more for high performance rather than receive “relatively small incremental raises over the next 25 years.”

As of 2012, 20 states required student achievement to count as a significant or the most significant factor in judging teacher performance, according to NCTQ.

The study and body of related research emphasizes the importance of Tennessee finding ways to select, reward, and retain teachers based on effectiveness rather than meaningless characteristics,

Gauthier said. It also suggests the state needs to support current teachers better and help improve teacher performance over time, she said.

Chubb is not sure whether the study will make much difference in state policy.

“Years of academic research have not persuaded policymakers to alter compensation practices; here’s hoping a study from the Tennessee Department of Education will,” says Chubb.

Putting the education in educational apps

New apps developed for children come online every day and many of them are marketed or labeled as “educational” — but how can we tell which of these thousands of apps will actually help children learn? A comprehensive new report published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, integrates research from scientific disciplines like psychological science, linguistics, and neuroscience to provide an evidence-based guide that parents, educators, and app designers alike can use to evaluate the quality of so-called “educational” apps.

Since the iPad was introduced just five years ago, over 80,000 educational apps have become available in the Apple app store, which means apps are being developed far faster than the scientific community can evaluate them, say report authors Kathy Hirsh-Pasek (Temple University), Jennifer Zosh (Penn State University, Brandywine), Roberta Michnick Golinkoff (University of Delaware), James H. Gray (Sesame Workshop), Michael B. Robb (Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College), and Jordy Kaufman (Swinburne University of Technology).

The full report and accompanying commentary by communications researcher Ellen Wartella (Northwestern University) are available free to the public online.

While scientific research examining specific features of individual apps may be scarce, scientists have amassed a wealth of knowledge about how children learn and this knowledge is directly applicable to the assessment of new forms of digital media, including apps, the authors say.

In their report, Hirsh-Pasek, Zosh, Golinkoff and colleagues present a comprehensive review of research from many disciplines related to the science of learning, offering a set of four evidence-based principles that can be used as guide, both by developers creating new products and by parents hoping to find high quality games for their children.

The researchers conclude that “educational” apps best support learning when they are:

  • Active in a way that requires mental effort and not just swiping
  • Engaging, not distracting
  • Meaningful in the context of a child’s life
  • Socially interactive because children learn best with others including parents and peers

“These four principles can help us distinguish apps that masquerade as educational from those most likely to engage children in an educationally meaningful experience,” the researchers say. While not all of these principles are necessary, the more an app promotes these types of learning experiences, the greater the educational value of the app will likely be.

The researchers point out that many apps feature content that seems educational, like letters or numbers, but this doesn’t mean that they have true educational value. For example, studies have shown that e-storybooks that contain lots of “bells and whistles” can distract young children from attending to and learning from the actual story. These findings suggest that apps that feature attention-grabbing sound, movement, or other visual elements may be more distracting than they are engaging, and are unlikely to serve as effective educational tools.

“There are a number of great apps in the marketplace,” the researchers note. “One of the major reasons we sought to complete this project was to empower a much wider audience to be educated consumers and developers of apps. Since we embarked on this project, we have been approached by a number of the leading app developers who seem excited to include more of the scientifically informed processes in their product lines.”

With the science of learning at their core, Hirsh-Pasek, Zosh, Golinkoff, and colleagues believe that the next generation of apps will be able to fully realize their potential as effective and engaging educational tools.

Elementary Students Held Back In Early Grades Often Do Not Get Special Education Plan

Many children who are retained in kindergarten, first or third grade for academic reasons do not subsequently receive a document outlining the individualized special education services they should receive, according to a new report.

Each year, 5 percent to 10 percent of American students are retained at the same grade level, according to background information in the article. One in 10 students age 16 to 19 have repeated a grade. “Some of these students may require special education services at the time they are retained, in subsequent years or both,” the authors write. “One approach to supporting a child with low academic achievement is the provision of speciala education services, as indicated in an Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP is a legally binding document describing a child’s special education services and is developed after the child has undergone a special evaluation and has been determined eligible for services.”

Eligibility for an IEP varies from state to state, but under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, every American child has the right to an evaluation. Michael Silverstein, M.D., M.P.H., of Boston Medical Center, and colleagues studied 380 children nationwide who were retained in elementary school for academic reasons (300 in kindergarten or first grade and 80 in third grade). The children were followed up through fifth grade.

Of the children retained in kindergarten or first grade, 40 (12.9 percent) had an IEP on record during the year they were held back, 60 (18.2 percent) received an IEP in the next one to five years and 210 (68.9 percent) never received an IEP. Twenty (18.9 percent) of the third-graders had an IEP during or before the year they were retained, 10 (8.8 percent) received one in the next one to two years and 60 (72.3 percent) never received one.

Children retained in kindergarten and first grade were less likely to have an IEP if they had a high socioeconomic status or lived in the suburbs rather than rural areas. “Among kindergarten/first grade retainees with persistently low academic achievement in math and reading, as assessed by standardized testing, 38.2 percent and 29.7 percent, respectively, never received an IEP,” the authors write.

“Although debates about the value of grade retention abound, the practice, in and of itself, has never been demonstrated to be an effective intervention relative to subsequent academic achievement or socioemotional adjustment,” the authors write. “Therefore, some experts in the field believe that retention should be accompanied by focused individualized assessments of children’s special education needs. Although our results do not definitely demonstrate that retained children have been denied their rights to such assessments, they raise the question of whether the potential special education needs of retained children, particularly those who demonstrate persistent academic difficulties, are being addressed consistently.”

This study was supported by a training grant from the Maternal Child Health Bureau.

Voter Education Kicks Off with U.S. Senate Debate

Hawaii had the lowest voter turnout among all states in 2012 – with less than half (44.5 percent) of eligible voters casting ballots. Yet, older voters turn out to the polls at a much higher rate than any other age group, suggesting that Hawaii voters age 50-plus will play an important role in determining this year’s election results.

Beginning in July, AARP Hawaii will sponsor a televised debate and numerous in-person voter education events designed to help residents make informed decisions as they cast their votes.

The voter education season kicks off on Tuesday, July 15 on KHON2 (7 – 8 p.m.) with a live, televised debate featuring Senator Brian Schatz and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, leading Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate. Sen. Schatz was appointed to the United States Senate in December 2012, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye. Rep. Hanabusa has served as Representative of Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District since January 2011.

At a time when “entitlement reform” and Social Security have become bargaining chips in Washington, D.C., and as increasing numbers of boomer-generation residents feel unprepared for their own retirement, the debate is expected to include questions about the candidates’ positions on Medicare and Social Security. The debate format also calls for questions to be solicited from the general public and for candidates to have an opportunity to question each other directly.

Beginning July 18, AARP will also sponsor a series of federal and state issues forums. These sessions will include a briefing on the future of Social Security and updates on AARP’s priority state legislative issues related to caregiving and long-term care.

The existing schedule is as follows (Kauai event date to be decided):

  • Friday, July 18 (9:30 – 11:30 a.m.) Maui Beach Hotel
  • Monday, July 28 (9:30 – 11:30 a.m.) Hilo Hawaiian Hotel
  • Tuesday, July 29 (9:30 – 11:30 a.m.) King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel
  • Saturday, August 2 (9:30 – 11:30 a.m.) Ward Warehouse, Kakaako Conference Rooz

AARP does not endorse candidates, have a political action committee (PAC), or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. For over 28 years, non-partisan voter education has been part of AARP’s mission to help Americans live their best lives. AARP informs its members and the general public about candidates’ position on issues so they can choose candidates that best represent their views and values.

Following the Primary Election on August 9, AARP Hawaii will make an on-line state and federal voter guide available to the public, enabling Hawaii voters to find out where the candidates stand on issues important to them.