Trey Truitt eyes comeback after vision defect dampened last season – Mercer Cluster

It’s the top of the eighth. The game is tied 7-7. One out. Runners on first and second. Full count. The conference championship is on the line. As Trey Truitt laid the bat on his shoulder, he stared at the pitcher thinking, “If the ball was coming to hit me, I had to turn and…
— Read on


The Pressure to Learn to Read Early

The Pressure to Learn to Read Early

There are very few children of average intelligence who cannot learn to read. Learning to read is a difficult process. The only reward in the early stages is the satisfaction of increasing success at breaking the code and being able to do something that adults do. It takes a long time – longer for some than for others – to be able to read independently for fun and for information. Continue reading

The Importance of Movement and Experience for Child Development

We tend to look for quick fixes for specific symptoms instead of looking at the larger problem and how it can be remediated or prevented. We still tend to act as if there is a separation between mind and body. The following statements are taken from the writings of Angela Hanscom who is a mother, a pediatric occupational therapist, the founder of TimberNook which is a nature-based program for child development, and an author. Her primary concern is evident from the title of her September 2015 blog, “The decline of play in preschool – and the rise in sensory issues”… Continue reading

How to Raise an Adult

Raising our children is one of life’s most important responsibilities. The title of this book, by Julie Lythcott-Haims, reminds us that the goal of raising children is for the children to become adults. Adolescence is prolonged due to higher education but in many cases adolescence is further prolonged when parents, who have done so much for their children along the way, don’t let go. Continue reading

The Smartest Kids in the World And How They Got That Way, Part Two

Amanda Ripley

Comparing the achievements of students in the United States and those of other countries demonstrates that we can do better, but it will take more than raising testing standards, teacher assessments, and finding blame. You can’t fatten a hog by weighing it is my favorite aphorism and it applies. Improving our education will require a sustained, consistent effort over time; not changing every few years as commissioners of education change. Leadership is defined as managing change which undervalues the skills needed to maintain a quality program and not drift. This does not cost more money. Every child having their own iPad is not bad, but it is not the answer. School districts brag about their technology because it is effective public relations. They don’t tout professional development which is more important and receives less attention. Continue reading

The Smartest Kids in the World And How They Got That Way, Part One

Amanda Ripley

Almost everyone has opinions about how to make education better. In The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got that Way, Amanda Ripley reports comparisons of education in the United States with education in other countries.

The beginning of this book is a story about three exchange students from different states in the United States,  one of whom goes to Finland, one to South Korea, and one to Poland. These countries were chosen due to how well their students scored on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). While no test is perfect, PISA was developed and administered for the first time in 2000, to “measure the kind of advanced thinking and communication skills that people needed to thrive in the modern world.” p. 15 It has  demonstrated its efficacy on a number of different scales including college performance and success in the workplace.


The United States has dropped from the highest rate of high school graduation in the world to 20th.  “The PISA revealed what should have been obvious but was not: that spending on education did not make kids smarter. Everything – everything – depended on what teachers, parents, and students did with those investments. pp. 17 – 18 “By the time of my quest, the United States had wasted more time and treasure on testing than any other country.” p. 19wasted testing

By comparing different countries, Amanda Ripley found a number of critical factors. Our aversion to having children fail and the emphasis on self-image is part of the problem. “Kids in Poland were used to failing, it seemed. The logic made sense. If the work was hard, routine failure was the only way to learn.  ‘Success’ as Winston Churchill once said, ‘is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.’” p. 72 “Failure in American schools was demoralizing and to be avoided at all costs. American kids could not handle routine failure, or so adults thought.” p. 72 Being hard does not mean that successful learning can’t be accomplished but it requires talented, well-trained teachers, work, time, and persistence. It also doesn’t mean being insensitive. Successful teaching requires individualized attention when a student is having a problem.

061026-N-5271J-014 Sasebo, Japan (Oct. 26, 2006) - Jennifer Tonder (right), a teacher's aide for a 3rd-4th grade multi-age class, discusses the various books available from the Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) grant given to Sasebo Elementary School with a student. The RIF donated 1,000 books to the school's library. Sasebo Elementary was the first overseas school to receive the RIF grant. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeff Johnstone (RELEASED)

Minnesota is an example of what can be done in the United States. Students were doing poorly in math across the state. “A coherent, clear set of standards, which focused on a few important topics each year, rather than dozens, helped repair this damage. At the same time, elementary students across the state started spending sixty minutes per day on math, up from thirty minutes in 1995.” p. 75 Their performance in math soared.

Many children start having trouble with math in middle school and decide that math is either something that you are good at or you aren’t. “Interestingly, that was not the kind of thing that most Americans said about reading. If you weren’t good at reading, you could, most people assumed, get better through hard work and good teaching. But in the United States, math was, for some reason, considered more of an innate ability, like being double-jointed.” p. 77

ROBERT HUGHES/SPECIAL TO ALLIANCE REGIONAL NEWSPAPERS/The 2004 Southlake Carroll High Dragons are the preseason top-rated football team in the nation by StudentSports Magazine. Head Coach Todd Dodge instructs them after practice on Friday.

One of the students that Amanda Ripley followed went from Oklahoma to Finland which has dramatically improved its student performance over the past 50 years. “The Finns decided that the only way to get serious about education was to select highly educated teachers, the best and the brightest of each generation, and train them vigorously. So that’s what they did. It was a radically obvious strategy that few countries had attempted.” p. 89 Ripley compares the student’s math teacher in Finland to the math teacher that she had in OK who was hired to be the football coach. “Nationwide, less than half of American high-school math teachers majored in math. Almost a third did not even minor in math.” p. 93


Ripley also brought in statistics which represent universals across cultures. “When children were young, parents who read to them every day or almost every day had kids who performed much better in reading, all around the world, by the time they were fifteen.” p. 100 “It meant asking them questions about the book, questions that encouraged them to think for themselves. It meant sending a signal to kids about the importance of not just reading but of learning about all kinds of new things.” p. 108 “At least one high-impact form of parental involvement did not actually involve kids or school at all: If parents simply read for pleasure at home on their own, their children were more likely to enjoy reading too. That pattern held fast across very different countries and different levels of income.” p. 111


Everyone recognizes that how children are treated is important, but pure research often ignores this to control variables. The model in Korea is pressure and extremely long hours – 12 hours or more of class a day. In Finland and Poland, students are given more freedom to make important decisions. They are not tracked as early and the expectation that all children can learn causes more children to be successful. They spend much less per student than in the US and don’t use calculators, iPads, buzzers, or interactive white boards. A high percentage of the students have a positive attitude about learning and understand that learning is important.

Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success


It can be exciting when research confirms what was believed in the past but has become less accepted. Carol Dweck’s research is one example. Her research is on our assumptions about talents and intelligence which she terms “mindset”. Those with a fixed mindset believe that talents and intelligence are an endowment and cannot be changed. Those with a growth mindset view talents and intelligence as malleable and that they can be developed through engaged effort. Dweck’s research demonstrates that our mindsets have profound effects on our lives and shows that mindsets can be changed… Continue reading