Weekly Roundup for December 2, 2011

Jess Tonn>      Curious about the man responsible for implementing the longer school day in Chicago? Read this Q&A series with CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.

>      Also out of Chicago: Preschool and kindergarten teachers in the city are adding math to daily activities, in “a promising new program that gives students a foundation for more complex math and logical-thinking skills in later grades.”

>      Karen Pittman of the Forum for Youth Investment argues that “the key factor in learning is the quality of instruction, not the quantity,” in their latest newsletter. “More of the same won’t net significant achievement gains unless the ‘same’ is rich enough, varied enough or relevant enough to engage students,” she writes.

>      I spent my Thanksgiving weekend reading about Na’Dreya Lattimore, a determined ten-year-old from Covington, Kentucky, who taught herself to read, plays “college” with her younger Ten Lettersbrothers and friends, and is frustrated that “nobody is getting the same education.” Washington Post reporter Eli Saslow profiled Na’Dreya in Ten Americans: The Stories Americans Tell Their President, and included this ExpandED-themed passage from the letter she wrote to President Obama:

They took away our social studies class and are giving us an extra math class for [kids who are struggling] to catch up…Can you fix this so that everybody can be in the rite class? I know you are busy, but I could really use your help on this.

>      Na’Dreya’s teachers take note: Cutting her social studies class now could prevent her from being able to take honors and advanced placement courses in high school, Education Week reports.

>      New research out of Harvard suggests that the transition to middle school really is challenging for kids—and not just because of acne and cliques. Researchers found that kids who transitioned to middle school in 6th grade experienced “sharp drops” in math and English achievement and were more likely to drop out of high school than kids who attended K-8 schools.

>      From Stanford: Researchers found that “the achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier.”

>      Doesn’t seem like the income gap is going anywhere, given that 21 million kids now receive free or reduced-priced meals at school, a 17% increase over the number of kids who received them in 2006-7.

>      Enough depressing news for one week—check out how this Dallas community rallied to save the garden at their school, including the Click beetles and a chicken named Janet.

Featured Friday Funding Opportunity:

LEGO Children’s Fund
The LEGO Children’s Fund will provide grants to organizations that focus on early childhood education and development; technology and communication projects that advance learning opportunities; or sport or athletic programs that concentrate on underserved youth.

Deadline: January 15

And now for something completely different:

Proud big-sister moment: My favorite neuroscientist Marlena Wosiski-Kuhn, also known as my little sis, is now a published author. If you don’t actually understand what “opposing effects of positive and negative stress on hippocampal plasticity over the lifespan” means (guilty!), she offers this explanation: “Basically, exercising through your whole life, starting with pregnant mommies all the way to grannies, protects against all kinds of stress that ages your brain.”

And now I’m off to the gym.