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School Improvement Grant - Intervention for Failing Schools

What is the School Improvement Grant?

school improvement grants

“School Improvement Grants…are used to improve student achievement in Title I schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring so as to enable those schools to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) and exit improvement status.” 
(www.ed.gov/programs/sif/index.html)

How much money is available?  

FY 2009 School Improvement Grant appropriation: $546 million

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: $3 billion

Total: $3.546 billion

Who is eligible to apply? 

Formula grant states, who make sub-grants to school districts.

What is the timing of the grant? 

Application available: December 3, 2009

Application deadline (for states): February 8, 2010

Awarding and disbursement of School Improvement Grant funds 

“FY 2009 school improvement funds are available for obligation by SEAs and LEAs through September 30, 2011. In its application for these funds, an SEA may request a waiver of the period of availability to permit the SEA and its LEAs to obligate the funds through September 30, 2013.”   (www.ed.gov/programs/sif/applicant.html, click on “Application” link and go to page i)

Amount of LEA awards

LEA subgrants can range from $50,000 to $2 million. 

(www.ed.gov/programs/sif/faqs.doc  and www.ed.gov/programs/sif/guidance20100120.doc)

School Improvement Grant Requirements

“The secretary would require states to identify three tiers of schools:

  • Tier I - The lowest-achieving five percent of Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring in a state, or the five lowest-performing Title I schools, whichever number is greater.
  • Tier II – Equally low-achieving secondary schools that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I funds. The secretary proposes targeting some of these extremely low-achieving high schools and their feeder middle schools….
  • Tier III – The remaining Title I schools in improvement, corrective action or restructuring that are not Tier I schools in the state.

[Recent legislation has allowed SEAs to use School Improvement Funds to serve “newly eligible” schools: certain low-achieving schools that are not Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring.  For more information, go to: www.ed.gov/programs/sif/guidance20100120.doc, pages 11-12.]

In its application to the state, each school district would be required to demonstrate its commitment to raising student achievement by implementing, in each Tier I and Tier II school, one of the following rigorous interventions:

  • Turnaround Model – This would include among other actions, replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of the school’s staff, adopting a new governance structure and implementing a new or revised instructional program.
  • Restart Model – School districts would close failing schools and reopen them under the management of a charter school operator, a charter management organization or an educational management organization selected through a rigorous review process. A restart school would be required to admit, within the grades it serves, any former student who wishes to attend.
  • School Closure – The district would close a failing school and enroll the students who attended that school in other high-achieving schools in the district.
  • Transformational Model – Districts would address four specific areas: 1) developing teacher and school leader effectiveness, which includes replacing the principal who led the school prior to commencement of the transformational model, 2) implementing comprehensive instructional reform strategies, 3) extending learning and teacher planning time and creating community-oriented schools, and 4) providing operating flexibility and sustained support.

Districts should choose the strategy that works best for each school. To ensure districts are choosing a variety of strategies, any district with nine or more schools in school improvement will not be allowed to use any single strategy in more than half of its schools.”   (http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2009/08/08262009.html)

How do Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ products fit with the School Improvement Grant?

Improve student achievement

To date, students in almost 6,000 schools have achieved improvements in language or reading skills with the Fast ForWord reading intervention software products. Numerous independent studies as well as detailed research and outcomes data consistently confirm the effectiveness of the products. After using the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant products, students have shown gains in achievement on a variety of standardized tests and state assessments. For example, Fast ForWord participants in Everett Publics Schools in Everett, Massachusetts, made significant gains in reading achievement following Fast ForWord product use during the 2007-2008 school year. Sixty-six percent of the students improved their MCAS Reading score in 2008 with an average improvement of 4.6 points. Scientific Learning has over 200 school based effectiveness and case reports documenting the substantial gains in achievement made by students after using the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant products.

Help Title I schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring so as to enable those schools to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) and exit improvement status  

With a background of over 30 years of neuroscience research and over 10 years of school site studies of effectiveness, Scientific Learning’s products have been shown to be proven intervention strategies for all schools, including those that are the lowest performing. The Fast ForWord Language and Fast ForWord Literacy series, with their cutting edge, neuroscience designed adaptivity and acoustically modified and enhanced sound, have been used successfully by students in low-performing schools in order to improve their cognitive, oral language, and reading skills. And both software series provide intensive support in a short period of time, from 4-16 weeks, depending on the scientifically validated protocol used.

Four Models of turning around schools:  

  • Turnaround model: Implementing a new or revised instructional program – Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant fit well as part of a new or revised instructional program to use neuroscience based and proven learning techniques to turn around schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring.
  • ReStart Model: Schools closed and re-starting will need scientifically based and proven educational tools like Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant in order to start anew and provide their struggling students with the cognitive, oral language, and reading skills that they need to succeed in all subject areas.
  • School Closure: Schools assimilating struggling students from closed schools will find that they need intervention products like Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant in order to help these students achieve grade level proficiency and assure that the school achieves or continues to achieve AYP.
  • Transformational Model: Implementing comprehensive instructional reform strategies – Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant fit well as part of or as a supplement to any comprehensive instructional reform strategy, and indeed, the effects of the products are comprehensive, affecting student performance in all subject areas. Extending learning...time - Scientific Learning’s software can be implemented easily during extended hours.

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Categories: Education Funding, Grants, and Stimulus, Fast ForWord, Reading Assistant, Scientific Learning Research

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Fun Science Experiments for Classroom or Home

fun science experiments

Yesterday’s blog post from Sherrelle Walker about making science fun really inspired me—so much so that I gathered up a few interesting experiments that will delight kids in the classroom or at home any time of year:

Bending Light
With just a strong flashlight and an empty soda can, you can make a beam of light follow a stream of water wherever it flows.

Screaming Cup
All you need is a large plastic cup, a piece of string, and some water (violin rosin optional) to create this eerie sound-effect and learn about the "stick and slide" effect that can amplify sound.

Dancing Raisins
Round up a can of colorless soda (e.g., 7-Up or Sprite), a tall clear glass or plastic cup, and some raisins, and find out why the raisins dance to the top of the cup and back to the bottom—again and again! 

Build a Film Canister Rocket
If you can find some white plastic film canisters, an Alka-Seltzer tablet, and safety goggles, you can launch a rocket from your school playground just by adding water.  (This experiment has a lot of "cautions"—for your safety, please follow them!)

A few months ago I did a version of the dancing raisins experiment with my three-year-old.  He loved it, not only because it was intriguing and fun to watch, but because he got to eat the extras!  I sat at the kitchen table with him, and as we ate raisins together we lingered over the experiment, delighting in the human element of togetherness—sharing food and wondering aloud in communal awe at the mechanisms of the world we inhabit. 

Over the next few weeks, my son asked to do the experiment again and again, kindling my hope that his future experiences in school and life will similarly nurture his curiosity and create an interest in science that will last a lifetime.

Is there a science experiment or science experience that has made a difference for you or your students?  Please share it with us!

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Categories: Reading & Learning

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Using the Human Element to Make Science Fun and Approachable

make science funIn recent years, our nation has been spending a great deal of time, energy and dollars to ensure that our students receive a solid educational foundation in reading, writing and mathematics. Today, much of the nation is also increasing its focus on the sciences.

In a recent article, "Science is gaining momentum in American schools," EducationNews.org noted: "It has taken prodding by industry, business, and government leaders — alarms going off, even — but science education is getting an upgrade in many classrooms..." Why the heightened awareness? Given the changes in the global economy, parents, educators and policy makers alike are demanding that we provide students with more opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills that will serve to springboard them into fields like energy technology, health care and engineering.

So how can we cultivate our students’ passion for science and discovery? It comes down to the two parts of a single idea: "WE can spend more TIME."

Regarding TIME: If we simply spent more TIME teaching science, as it turns out, more students would be likely to end up pursuing science-related careers. At Springside School in Philadelphia, they have put a great emphasis on science, and in recent years, about half of their graduates have expressed an interest in pursuing such paths.

But what if WE put more of OURSELVES into our classrooms? I propose that in bringing in the PEOPLE element, we can bring back the fun and the wonder. With our students, we can hatch more butterflies, build more baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, spend more nights stargazing, and maybe even make more electric pickles. Such experiences offer great ways to spur both discussion and show students that it’s wonderful and HUMAN to have a passion for scientific discovery.

Overall, I think we can simply do a better job of showing students that science is about people, and that it’s the people who make it exciting. We can bring in parents with science-related careers as guests to help with experiments and discussions. We also have a lot to learn from great "science celebs" like Bill Nye the "Science Guy" and Steve Spangler; they offer all sorts of resources and ideas that we can use to light that fire for discovery in our students.

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Categories: Reading & Learning

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Traveling with a Toddler

travel with toddler Today in an airport lobby while watching many frustrated parents try to deal with fussy youngsters, a grandmother shared with me that when her youngest was 18 months old she took her on an airplane and her child acted "so terribly" that she refused to travel with her again until she was 18.

Nothing is more stressful for you or your toddler than a long car or plane ride. No matter how hard you try, a trip is a major break in your child’s normal routine. Meals, naps and regular bed times are very difficult to maintain on long trips. Once a toddler is out of his routine, he will be likely to become very cranky. And, since your toddler cannot move around and explore, which is what her developing body and mind long for, she will become very frustrated without any understanding of why.

As your toddler starts to cry and refuse to be comforted, you may feel embarrassed that you cannot control his behavior. That in turn may increase both your frustration and that of your child, and before you know it, the situation can be very difficult to reverse.

To avoid a cascading cycle of frustration and irritability, try switching gears. Start the trip with a well rested child, if at all possible. Bring a familiar blanket, doll or stuffed animal that your toddler associates with restful times. Avoid bringing electronic or noisy toys that stimulate your child. Come armed with favorite books, a few manipulables like blocks, familiar easy puzzles, and of course, a bottle or chew foods.

One of the problems on planes is that the air pressure changes that occur during take-off and landing actually cause ear aches so having something for your toddler to suck or chew on will relieve the air pressure buildup in the middle ear that causes an earache.

Plan on keeping your toddler occupied during the trip. As much as you may need to use the trip to read or relax yourself, plan things to do with your toddler that will occupy almost all of her time. When you can, get up and let your toddler walk up and down the aisles of the plane or if you are traveling by car, plan for plenty of “rest” stops which will actually end up being “run” stops. Your rest will come after the car or plane trip has ended and you put your child down for a nice long nap or sleep.

Some moving games/songs you can play with your toddler while seated on a car or plane ride are those that involve pointing to body parts while you sing softly like:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
And eyes, and ears and mouth and nose
Head shoulders knees and toes

Or every child’s favorite toe game:

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy went home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And, this little piggy cried Wee, Wee, Wee all the way home

Dolls that allow practice with snaps, buckles, and zippers can also provide some “doing” time.

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Categories: Family Focus

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Sleep: An Essential Ingredient for Memory Function

sleep, learning and memory

We all know the old Ben Franklin quote, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." While I have not yet investigated the "wealthy" claim, Franklin was spot-on in the "healthy and wise" department; research has shown sleep to be a key contributor to optimal health and brain function.

Before we address sleep, here is a quick primer on some concepts regarding memory:

  • Short-term memory, also known as "working memory," refers to memories that we use or refer to before discarding them or transferring them to long-term memory.
  • Long-term memory refers to anything that happened more than a few minutes ago and breaks down into further categorizations, such as implicit/explicit and others. (See Posit Science, "Types of Memory" for a description of the different categories of memories.)
  • Sleep benefits two specific forms of long-term memory: declarative (those memories that we can call up on-demand, such as facts and events) as well as procedural (those memories that are skills developed through repeated practice, such as playing the piano, keyboarding or wielding a tennis racquet).

How does the brain process information to turn it into memories? Memorization breaks down into three distinct stages:

  • Stabilization, during which new data develops a resistance to interference from other information and “becomes” a memory.
  • Consolidation, where memories are moved to structures in the brain where they become more permanent.
  • Reconsolidation, whereby memories are strengthened, refined and modified for long-term storage as they are recalled and re-used.

Sleep plays a significant roll in the consolidation and re-consolidation stages of memory. Physiologically, slow-wave sleep (SWS) supports consolidation, while rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is more associated with reconsolidation processes.

From a purely practical standpoint, it boils down to this: a good memory requires a good night’s sleep. To keep one’s memory working, eight hours a night is a smart guideline. As for truly optimal memory function, the short daytime nap of sixty or ninety minutes—or even the five or ten minute cat nap—has been demonstrated to improve memory and recall.

For more reading, see:

 

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Categories: Brain Research, Reading & Learning

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Can Scientific Learning Products Improve School Test Scores?

Improve Test Scores

When making a buying decision about educational software for a school or district, one of the most important questions to ask is whether the product is effective.  Administrators considering the Fast ForWord® and Reading Assistant™ products want to know: Do they help students learn and succeed?  Do they improve school test scores?  Are they evidence-based?

The answer to all of these questions is yes.  Scientific Learning products have been proven to improve language, reading, and cognitive skills as well as to improve school test scores on state assessments and other standardized tests for schools that follow the prescribed protocols.  Our Scientifically Based Research page is your starting point for exploring the 200+ studies that have evaluated the effectiveness of the programs and that serve as evidence of improved learning outcomes.

On average, students can see a 1-2 year improvement in reading level on school test scores in as little as 8-12 weeks.  English language learners, struggling readers, and special education students have all been positively impacted.  So have students performing at grade level and above.

Here are just a few examples:

Dallas Independent School District, TX (View PDF)

  • Four year longitudinal study
  • Fast ForWord participants significantly improved their reading achievement scores on the TAKS state assessment and maintained their improved reading skills
  • Average decrease in the achievement gap for the 544 Fast ForWord participants was 25%

St. Mary Parish Public School System, LA (View PDF)

  • After using Fast ForWord products, percent of Centerville, LA, 4th graders scoring proficient on state assessments exceeds state average
  • Marked improvement in 4th grade Math, Science, and Social Studies test scores, highlights the impact of Fast Forword products on improving cognitive and foundational skills

Bridges Academy, Winter Springs, FL (View PDF)

  • A private school serving students with learning disabilities with a goal of improving reading skills
  • Case study on 2nd through 10th graders to evaluate the effects of adding Reading Assistant software to their existing Fast ForWord implementation
  • Reading Assistant and Fast ForWord products are used concurrently and students are assessed before and after use
  • In an average of three months, the students at the school improve their grade equivalent test scores by an average of one year and three months on the Basic Skills Composite, which combines the Word Identification and Word Attack subtests

The benefits of Scientific Learning products go beyond improving state assessment scores.  Researchers have measured improvements in self-esteem, communication skills such as vocabulary and pronunciation, improvements in listening and understanding, and stronger memory for things like phone numbers and event sequences.  Review our scientifically based research for detailed information.

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Categories: English Language Learners, Fast ForWord, Reading & Learning, Reading Assistant, Scientific Learning Research, Special Education

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