University of Buffalo study: Phonics is a useful tool in learning

30 Jan

PBS Parents has a very good primer on phonics:

What is phonics?
Phonics is simply the system of relationships between letters and sounds in a language. When your kindergartener learns that the letter B has the sound of /b/ and your second-grader learns that “tion” sounds like /shun/, they are learning phonics.

Why is phonics important?
Learning phonics will help your children learn to read and spell. Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds of letters and letter combinations will help your child decode words as he reads. Knowing phonics will also help your child know which letters to use as he writes words.

When is phonics usually taught?
Your child will probably learn phonics in kindergarten through second grade. In kindergarten, children usually learn the sounds of the consonant letters (all letters except the vowels a, e, i, o, and u). First- and second-graders typically learn all the sounds of letters, letter combinations, and word parts (such as “ing” and “ed”). They practice reading and spelling words containing those letters and patterns. Second-graders typically review and practice the phonics skills they have learned to make spelling and reading smooth and automatic…. http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/reading-language/reading-tips/phonics-basics/

See, Phonics Instruction http://www.readingrockets.org/article/phonics-instruction and Understanding Phonics http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/understand-phonics

Science Daily reported in Concentrating on word sounds helps reading instruction and intervention:

A neuroimaging study by a University at Buffalo psychologist suggests that phonics, a method of learning to read using knowledge of word sounds, shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of a whole-language technique that focuses on visually memorizing word patterns, a finding that could help improve treatment and diagnosis of common reading disorders such as dyslexia.

“Phonological information is critical for helping identify words as they’re being read,” says Chris McNorgan, PhD, assistant professor of psychology, whose study, “Skill dependent audiovisual integration in the fusiform induces repetition suppression,” used MRI scans to observe how parts of the brain responded to audio and visual word cues. The results are published in the most recent edition of Brain & Language.

A better reader is someone whose visual processing is more sensitive to audio information, according to the study’s results.

“There are applications here not just for reading disorders, but also for how children are taught to read in the classroom,” he says.

Barring injury, McNorgan says, all parts of the brain are working at all times, contrary to the myth that it functions at only a fraction of its capacity. However, different parts of the brain are specialized for different types of activities that trigger some regions to work harder than others.
With reading, the Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) is excited when it encounters familiar letter combinations. But most activities require communication between different brain regions and coordination with sensory systems, like an outfielder watching a baseball while the brain programs the motor system to catch it…..
Concentrating on word sounds helps reading instruction and intervention

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150128141425.htm

Citation:

Concentrating on word sounds helps reading instruction and intervention
Date: January 28, 2015

Source: University at Buffalo
Summary:
A neuroimaging study by psychologist suggests that phonics shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of a whole-language technique, a finding that could help improve treatment and diagnosis of common reading disorders.
Brain Lang. 2015 Feb;141:110-23. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2014.12.002. Epub 2015 Jan 9.
Skill dependent audiovisual integration in the fusiform induces repetition suppression.
McNorgan C1, Booth JR2.
Author information
Abstract
Learning to read entails mapping existing phonological representations to novel orthographic representations and is thus an ideal context for investigating experience driven audiovisual integration. Because two dominant brain-based theories of reading development hinge on the sensitivity of the visual-object processing stream to phonological information, we were interested in how reading skill relates to audiovisual integration in this area. Thirty-two children between 8 and 13years of age spanning a range of reading skill participated in a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment. Participants completed a rhyme judgment task to word pairs presented unimodally (auditory- or visual-only) and cross-modally (auditory followed by visual). Skill-dependent sub-additive audiovisual modulation was found in left fusiform gyrus, extending into the putative visual word form area, and was correlated with behavioral orthographic priming. These results suggest learning to read promotes facilitatory audiovisual integration in the ventral visual-object processing stream and may optimize this region for orthographic processing.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Here is the press release from the University of Buffalo:

Press Release
Concentrating on word sounds helps reading instruction and intervention

UB researcher’s findings point to the value of word sounds over visual processing during reading instruction or when diagnosing and treating reading disorders
By Bert Gambini
Release Date: January 26, 2015

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A neuroimaging study by a University at Buffalo psychologist suggests that phonics, a method of learning to read using knowledge of word sounds, shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of a whole-language technique that focuses on visually memorizing word patterns, a finding that could help improve treatment and diagnosis of common reading disorders such as dyslexia.

“Phonological information is critical for helping identify words as they’re being read,” says Chris McNorgan, PhD, assistant professor of psychology, whose study, “Skill dependent audiovisual integration in the fusiform induces repetition suppression,” used MRI scans to observe how parts of the brain responded to audio and visual word cues. The results are published in the most recent edition of Brain & Language.

A better reader is someone whose visual processing is more sensitive to audio information, according to the study’s results.

“There are applications here not just for reading disorders, but also for how children are taught to read in the classroom,” he says.

Barring injury, McNorgan says, all parts of the brain are working at all times, contrary to the myth that it functions at only a fraction of its capacity. However, different parts of the brain are specialized for different types of activities that trigger some regions to work harder than others.

With reading, the Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) is excited when it encounters familiar letter combinations. But most activities require communication between different brain regions and coordination with sensory systems, like an outfielder watching a baseball while the brain programs the motor system to catch it.

How this communication happens while reading – which requires visual and auditory knowledge – and to what extent is less clear. So McNorgan’s study looked for what’s known as top-down influence of auditory knowledge in the VWFA.

Think of a bottom-up process as a flow of information that begins with the visual system feeding neurons that detect basic features in words such as line orientation that eventually leads to word recognition. A top-down process implies that some other information enters that flow of visual recognition – information like the knowledge of the word sounds.

“This auditory knowledge can be used to help rule out some letter combinations. For example, many words end in ISK or ASK. For a few milliseconds there may be some ambiguity among the neurons trying to figure out whether that last letter is a K or an X,” said McNorgan. “Since you don’t have any words ending in ISX in your verbal repertoire, this helps rule out the possibility that you read the word DISX and instead read the word as DISK.”

To find evidence of this top-down input, researchers presented subjects with wide ranges of reading abilities between the ages of 8 and 13 with word pairs. The subjects had to determine if the words rhymed while an MRI scanner monitored their brain activity.

The experiment used three sets of conditions when presenting the word pairs: subjects first read the word pairs (visual-only); then heard the word pairs (auditory-only); and lastly, a combination of sight and sound, hearing the first word but reading the second (audio-visual). The MRI scanner determined which parts of the brain were most active during each condition by displaying a three dimensional representation of the brain, made up of what look like a series of cubes, called voxels.

“Think of the voxels as LEGOS assembled together to make a 3D model of the brain. Each cube has a measurement of activation strength that allows us to understand of what’s happening in each area under all three of the conditions,” said McNorgan.

The resulting images, he said, comprise something like a movie reel, with approximately one frame passing every two seconds. Signal strength is then measured in each voxel under all the condition across all the snapshots in time.

“Looking at the voxels in a particular brain area, if the signal strengths associated with two different conditions differ, then you have some evidence that brain area processes information about the two conditions differently,” says McNorgan.

To make sense of the results through all the conditions, researchers take the sum of the auditory-only and visual-only signals and compare that to the strength of the audio-visual condition. This helps them distinguish between multisensory sensory neurons, which become excited by audio-visual information, and collections of heterogeneous unisensory neurons, a mix of visual-only and auditory-only that respond excitedly to one or the other.

“If the audio-visual response is greater than the sum of the auditory-only and the visual-only, this suggests that getting both types of inputs causes these neurons to fire for longer periods of time. This is a superadditive effect,” says McNorgan. “An audio-visual response less than that sum suggests that getting both types of inputs causes these neurons to fire for less time. This is a subadditive effect.”
This subadditivity is associated with higher reading scores and faster responses to similarly spelled words, the reading equivalent to having a head start in a race.

“As you learn how to read, your brain starts to make more use of top-down information about the sounds of letter combinations in order to recognize them as parts of words,” says McNorgan. “This information gives your word-recognition system a leg-up, allowing it to respond more quickly. The multisensory neurons are getting the job done sooner, so they don’t need to fire for as long. Better readers seem to have more of these neurons taking advantage of auditory information to help the visual word recognition system along.”

Early intervention and basic instruction would counterintuitively involve this auditory information, “thinking more about the sounds of different words instead of concentrating on recognizing words,” says McNorgan.
Media Contact Information
Bert Gambini
News Content Manager, Economics, Media Study and Psychology
Tel: 716-645-5334
gambini@buffalo.edu
– See more at: Concentrating on word sounds helps reading instruction and intervention – University at Buffalo

http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2015/01/028.html

This study shows that there are many things to be learned about how to effectively teach reading skills to those who are struggling.

Related:

The importance of the skill of handwriting in the school curriculum

http://drwilda.com/2012/01/24/the-importance-of-the-skill-of-handwriting-in-the-school-curriculum/

The slow reading movement

http://drwilda.com/2012/01/31/the-slow-reading-movement/

Why libraries in K-12 schools are important

http://drwilda.com/2012/12/26/why-libraries-in-k-12-schools-are-important/

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New Jersey bill to require teachers get more suicide prevention training

25 Jan

The New Jersey legislature wants to give teachers more training in suicide prevention. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL):

  • 19.3 percent of high school students have seriously considered killing themselves.

  • 14.5 percent of high school students made actual plans for committing suicide,

  • 900,000 youth planned their suicides during an episode of major depression.

While suicide does not seem terribly common, it is nevertheless a major cause of death. The CDC reports that it is the third leading cause of death for youth ages 15 to 24. The only two things that cause more death among teenagers are accidents (usually in the car) and homicide. And even younger children do not escape. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 14.

Gender differences in teen suicide

Teen suicide statistics show differences in the ways boys and girls handle suicide. While girls think about attempted suicide about twice as much as boys, boys are actually four times more likely than girls to actually die by killing themselves….                                   http://www.teensuicidestatistics.com/statistics-facts.html

The Centers for Disease Control list some risk factors for teen suicide:

Several factors can put a young person at risk for suicide. However, having these risk factors does not always mean that suicide will occur.

Risk factors:

  • History of previous suicide attempts

  • Family history of suicide

  • History of depression or other mental illness

  • Alcohol or drug abuse

  • Stressful life event or loss

  • Easy access to lethal methods

  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others

  • Incarceration                                                                                                                                                                    http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/youth_suicide.html

The goal of a proposed bill in New Jersey is early identification and intervention for children at risk of suicide.

Michael Catalini of Associated Press reported in Teachers would get more training on suicide under bill:

Public school teachers would undergo more suicide prevention education under a proposal from a bipartisan group of New Jersey lawmakers.

An Assembly committee approved the measure late last year while Republican state Sen. Diane Allen introduced a similar bill in the Senate this month.

The bill requires public school teachers and staff to receive two hours of suicide prevention training from a licensed health care professional every year, up from the current requirement of two hours over five years.

Democratic Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt said she and her colleagues are pursuing the change now because of the increased use of technology by students and the rise of bullying over text messages that could contribute to suicides.

The requirement that teachers undergo suicide prevention education reaches back to 2005 legislation that established the current requirement. Gov. Richard Codey signed the bill into law in 2006, making New Jersey the first state in the country to enact such a requirement.

New Jersey has a youth suicide rate of about 5 per 100,000 people, compared with nearly 8 per 100,000 nationally in 2012, the most recently available statistics from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. The report defines youth as people from ages 10 to 24.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds in New Jersey. From 2011 to 2013, 232 people in that age group committed suicides, according to the department….                           http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765667095/Teachers-would-get-more-training-on-suicide-under-bill.html

People of all ages may have feelings of profound sadness, loss, and depression. There is no one on earth, despite what the ads attempt to portray, who lives a perfect life. Every life has flaws and blemishes; it is just that some cope better than others. For every person who lives to a ripe old age, during the course of that life they may encounter all types of loss from loss of a loved one through death, divorce or desertion, loss of job, financial reverses, illness, dealing with A-holes and twits, plagues, pestilence, and whatever curse can be thrown at a person. The key is that they lived THROUGH whatever challenges they faced AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME. Woody Allen said something like “90% of life is simply showing up.” Let me add a corollary, one of the prime elements of a happy life is to realize that whatever moment you are now in, it will not last forever and that includes moments of great challenge. A person does not have to be religious to appreciate the story of Job. The end of the story is that Job is restored. He had to endure much before the final victory, though.

Resources:

Suicide Prevention                                                                                                                             http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/youth_suicide.html

Teen Suicide Overview                                                                                                                     http://www.teensuicidestatistics.com/

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University of Vermont study: Musical training linked to enhanced brain maturation

20 Jan

Mozart was a child prodigy. Most of us don’t come close to possessing his gifts. The Journal Times reported about the “Mozart effect.”

Mozart Effect

Scientific research has found some basis for the notion that music instruction stimulates general intelligence. About 10 years ago that was called the Mozart effect, the result of some research that reported that listening to a Mozart sonata increased the ability of some college students on a test of mental ability. Popular wisdom twisted that into the notion that listening to music makes you smarter, which is more magic than science. What scientists say at the moment is that music instruction will make you smarter about music, and that for music to help children they need to begin instruction really, really early….http://journaltimes.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/mozart-s-legacy-early-music-lessons-may-help-children-later/article_75110c66-bd8d-5579-92ae-222c06aa5103.html

Music consists of rhythms and mathematic like patterns which change a child’s brain and way of thinking. Research which was published in the Journal of Neuropsychology suggests that children who study music will as adults will benefit from music study. The research shows “….that the region of the brain involved in verbal memory is larger in adult musicians than in those who are not musicians.” Mental Ability Affected by Music Study http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/29/health/vital-signs-mental-abilities-more-music-yields-more-words.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subjects/C/Children%27s%20Health&emc=eta1 Further, Rauscher’s study concludes “the research suggests that music may act as a catalyst for cognitive abilities in other disciplines, and the relationship between music and spatial-temporal reasoning is particularly compelling.” Music Affects a Child’s Cognitive Ability http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Can_Music/

Science Daily reported in Could playing Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker’ and other music improve kids’ brains?

Children who play the violin or study piano could be learning more than just Mozart. A University of Vermont College of Medicine child psychiatry team has found that musical training might also help kids focus their attention, control their emotions and diminish their anxiety. Their research is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

James Hudziak, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families, and colleagues including Matthew Albaugh, Ph.D., and graduate student research assistant Eileen Crehan, call their study “the largest investigation of the association between playing a musical instrument and brain development.”

The research continues Hudziak’s work with the National Institutes of Health Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Study of Normal Brain Development. Using its database, the team analyzed the brain scans of 232 children ages 6 to 18.

As children age, the cortex — the outer layer of the brain — changes in thickness. In previous analysis of MRI data, Hudziak and his team discovered that cortical thickening or thinning in specific areas of the brain reflected the occurrence of anxiety and depression, attention problems, aggression and behavior control issues even in healthy kids — those without a diagnosis of a disorder or mental illness. With this study, Hudziak wanted to see whether a positive activity, such as music training, would influence those indicators in the cortex.

The study supports The Vermont Family Based Approach, a model Hudziak created to establish that the entirety of a young person’s environment — parents, teachers, friends, pets, extracurricular activities — contributes to his or her psychological health. “Music is a critical component in my model,” Hudziak says…. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141223132546.htm

Citation:

Could playing Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker’ and other music improve kids’ brains?

Date: December 23, 2014
Source: University of Vermont
Summary:
In a study called ‘the largest investigation of the association between playing a musical instrument and brain development,’ a child psychiatry team has found that musical training might also help kids focus their attention, control their emotions and diminish their anxiety.

Cortical Thickness Maturation and Duration of Music Training: Health-Promoting Activities Shape Brain Development
James J. Hudziak, MD
,
Matthew D. Albaugh, PhD
,
Simon Ducharme, MD
,
Sherif Karama, MD, PhD
,
Margaret Spottswood, MD
,
Eileen Crehan, BA
,
Alan C. Evans, PhD
,
Kelly N. Botteron, MD
for the
Brain Development Cooperative Group
Accepted: August 28, 2014; Published Online: September 03, 2014
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2014.06.015
Article Info
• Abstract
• Full Text
• Images
• References
• Supplemental Materials
Objective
To assess the extent to which playing a musical instrument is associated with cortical thickness development among healthy youths.
Method
Participants were part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Study of Normal Brain Development. This study followed a longitudinal design such that participants underwent MRI scanning and behavioral testing on up to 3 separate visits, occurring at 2-year intervals. MRI, IQ, and music training data were available for 232 youths (334 scans), ranging from 6 to 18 years of age. Cortical thickness was regressed against the number of years that each youth had played a musical instrument. Next, thickness was regressed against an “Age × Years of Playing” interaction term. Age, gender, total brain volume, and scanner were controlled for in analyses. Participant ID was entered as a random effect to account for within-person dependence. False discovery rate correction was applied (p ≤ .05).
Results
There was no association between thickness and years playing a musical instrument. The “Age × Years of Playing” interaction was associated with thickness in motor, premotor, and supplementary motor cortices, as well as prefrontal and parietal cortices. Follow-up analysis revealed that music training was associated with an increased rate of thickness maturation. Results were largely unchanged when IQ and handedness were included as covariates.
Conclusion
Playing a musical instrument was associated with more rapid cortical thickness maturation within areas implicated in motor planning and coordination, visuospatial ability, and emotion and impulse regulation. However, given the quasi-experimental nature of this study, we cannot rule out the influence of confounding variables.

Here is the press release from the University of Vermont:

Musical Training Linked to Enhanced Brain Maturation
Patients who come to see child psychiatrists like Dr. Jim Hudziak at the Vermont Center for Children, Youth, and Families may leave with a prescription, but it often is not for a medication. As part of a model he developed called The Vermont Family Based Approach (VFBA), there is increased emphasis on incorporating wellness and health promotion strategies into the overall treatment plan. As Hudziak explains in a podcast related to the study, “One of my life goals is to see if there is a chance to move medicine away from its preoccupation with negative events and negative outcomes to argue that the opposite is also true, and that when positive things happen, positive outcomes will follow.” Thus, the goal of this model for children and families is to help them take steps not only to overcome whatever symptoms they have but to propel them towards true mental health and wellness. To get there requires attention to domains such as nutrition, parental mental health, sleep, mindfulness, and physical activity, often given short shrift in traditional approaches. Music and the arts are also highly encouraged within the VFBA. According to the Department of Education, approximately 75% of American high school students rarely or never participate in music or art training outside of the school.
While participation in music and the arts is widely viewed as positive for child development, how it affects the brain remains only partially understood. To investigate this question further and to bolster the scientific evidence behind the push for more involvement in music, Dr. Hudziak and his postdoctural associate Matt Albaugh, along with a team comprised of scientists from the University of Vermont, Montreal Neurological Institute, Harvard, and Washington University, examined brain scan data from the National Institutes of Health MRI Study of Normal Brain Behavior. Their study was published as the lead article in the November edition of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
The subjects for the study were 232 typically developing children without psychiatric illness between the ages of 6 and 18, all of whom received structural MRI scans at up to three different time points. With these serial MRI scans the examiners were able to see how the thickness of the brain cortex changed with age. Prior studies have indicated that the cortex generally thins across adolescence as the brain undergoes a normal “pruning” process that may be related to more efficient brain functioning. A delay in this cortical thinning process, particularly in regions such as the prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortex, which are thought to be important for “executive control” functions such as inhibiting impulses and regulating attention, has recently been shown among those with clinical attention problems and ADHD.
The amount of musical training a child had was also measured to see if this variable interacted with age in its association to cortical thickness. The average time playing an instrument was about two years.
The main result of the study was that years of musical training were indeed related to age-related cortical thinning. Specifically, more musical training was associated with accelerated thinning, not only in the expected motor cortices but also in some of the very same regions implicated in those with more pronounced attention problems. “What was surprising was to see regions that play key roles in emotional regulation also modified by the amount of musical training one did.”
The authors concluded that musical training was associated with more rapid cortical maturation across many brain areas, and they hypothesized that musical training may have beneficial effects on brain development for children whether or not they suffered from attention or executive function difficulties.
Certainly, much more research is needed to support the notion of musical training as an effective treatment for diagnoses such as ADHD, but this study raises some thought-provoking possibilities. In the article, Hudziak and colleagues highlight Venezuela’s El Sistema program that has brought musical training and performance to millions of disadvantaged children both abroad and here in the U.S.. Studies have shown important improvements in drop-out rates, employment, and community involvement among participants of the program. Such efforts are critical as many families are unable to access music lessons due to their cost. Dr. Hudziak, who has done research on the genetic influence of various traits and abilities, notes that our culture seems to have it backwards in promoting certain activities only for children who seem born to excel at them. He questions why “only the great athletes compete, only the great musicians play, and only the great singers sing,” especially as children age. He and his team have worked to improve local access to musical training through research studies and mentorship programs. The need is still high, however, and is now underscored by the increasing data linking wellness activities to measurable changes in brain development.
Reference
Hudziak JJ, Albaugh MD, et al. Cortical thickness maturation and duration of music training: Health-promoting activities shape brain development. JAACAP. 2014;11:1153-1161. http://blog.uvm.edu/drettew/2014/12/02/musical-training-linked-to-enhanced-brain-maturation/

The question is not whether children should be exposed to and study music. Children should be exposed to a wide range of the arts. The issue is what content is appropriate. A Book Rags Student Essays lays out the issues with hip hop music and its sometimes negative effects on the culture. Negative Effects of Hip Hop http://www.bookrags.com/essay-2005/9/21/202351/048/#gsc.tab=0 The late C. Delores Tucker and Tipper Gore were ridiculed when they pointed out the negative effects of glorifying violence and demeaning women by calling them “bitches and hos.” Lest people think that hip hop music and hip hop culture only affect children of color, think again. NPR had a segment entitled “why white kids love hip hop.” Why White Kids Love Hip Hop http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4773208 The negative life style choices and clothing glorified by many “gangsta” artists are affecting mainstream culture.

There is no one right type of music, good music comes in all genres. There is music that feeds the soul and music that destroys the soul, psyche, and culture. There is a positive hip hop movement. Essence, a magazine targeted at Black woman and the Berklee College of Music are joining forces Positive Hip Hop:

Berklee College of Music, in an effort to influence the direction of rap, is joining Essence magazine’s Take Back the Music campaign, meant in part to encourage young artists who offer alternatives to the violent and sex-laden lyrics found in some popular hip-hop music….http://www.boston.com/ae/music/articles/2006/01/30/aiming_for_an_alternative_hip_hop/

Amazon has a positive hip hop guide. Just as parents want to provide a nutritious menu of food, they need to make sure that young minds are properly nourished as well.

If your child loves Mozart, that doesn’t make them a sissy. Your child can love hip hop without that making them a thug.

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University of Illinois and Princeton University study: Stereotypes that women are not as brilliant as men result in gender inequity in academia

15 Jan

Many girls and women who have the math and science aptitude for a science career don’t enter scientific fields. Cheryl B. Schrader wrote in the St Louis Post-Dispatch article, STEM education: Where the girls are not:

Compounding this issue, the gender gap in these fields is widening…
While the majority of U.S. college students today are female, they remain a minority in many science and engineering fields. If universities are to meet the future demands of our economy, we can’t leave half of the college-bound population on the sidelines.
How can we change that? The STEMconnector report offers some hints.
Female high school students who are interested in these fields often gravitate toward biology, chemistry, marine biology and science — areas often associated with a desire to make the world a better place. Women tend to be drawn to these service-oriented professions….http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/columns/stem-education-where-the-girls-are-not/article_ae33c7b7-6a7b-5011-8d2a-138bc1538357.html

See, STEM Connector http://store.stemconnector.org/Where-Are-the-STEM-Students_p_9.html

Stephanie Castillo reported in the Medical Daily article, Gender Inequality In Academia Stems From Assumption Women Aren’t As Brilliant As Men:

A new study published in the journal Science continues to support the idea gender inequality exists in academia.

According to researchers from the University of Illinois and Princeton University, women are underrepresented in academic fields, such as the sciences, the humanities, social sciences, and math, because of stereotypes. Namely, the idea is that women’s intellectual abilities are inferior to those of men. Cue the eye rolling.

The study surveyed more than 1,800 graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty members across 30 academic disciplines, asking them the qualities required for success in their fields. When it came to the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), as well as the humanities and social sciences, women were underrepresented because of the premium practitioners put on brilliance.

“We’re not saying brilliance — or valuing brilliance — is a bad thing. And we’re not saying women are not brilliant or that being brilliant isn’t helpful to one’s academic career. Our data don’t address that,” Andrei Cimpian, lead study author and psychology professor at Illinois, explained in a press release. “What they suggest is that conveying to your students a belief that brilliance is required for success may have a differential effect on males and females that are looking to pursue careers in your field.”

Cimpian’s explanation held up after he and his team tested for three additional hypotheses regarding female underrepresentation: one, women avoid working long hours; two, it’s harder for women to break into these highly selective fields; and three, men simply outnumber women “in fields that require analytical, systematical reasoning.” Neither of these was able to predict women’s representation in academia as well as brilliance.

But, just because Cimpian’s study didn’t address the idea “women aren’t brilliant” or “being brilliant isn’t helpful” doesn’t mean it’s not a thing. Because if it were true no one is saying or making these assumptions, there would be more women in academia. Cimpian himself said there’s no convincing evidence men and women differ intellectually in ways that would be relevant to their success working in science — it’s mainly the perceived or presumed differences between women and men.

The idea women are “inferior” to men started somewhere, so where should we be looking in order to come up with the solution? One study published in the journal Life Science Education suggested the classroom…http://www.medicaldaily.com/gender-inequality-academia-stems-assumption-women-arent-brilliant-men-317984

Citation:

Science 16 January 2015:
Vol. 347 no. 6219 pp. 262-265
DOI: 10.1126/science.1261375

  • Report

Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines

  1. Sarah-Jane Leslie1,*,,
  2. Andrei Cimpian2,*,,
  3. Meredith Meyer3,
  4. Edward Freeland4

+ Author Affiliations

  1. 1Department of Philosophy, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
  2. 2Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL 61820, USA.
  3. 3Department of Psychology, Otterbein University, Westerville, OH 43081, USA.
  4. 4Survey Research Center, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
  1. *These authors contributed equally to the work.

The gender imbalance in STEM subjects dominates current debates about women’s underrepresentation in academia. However, women are well represented at the Ph.D. level in some sciences and poorly represented in some humanities (e.g., in 2011, 54% of U.S. Ph.D.’s in molecular biology were women versus only 31% in philosophy). We hypothesize that, across the academic spectrum, women are underrepresented in fields whose practitioners believe that raw, innate talent is the main requirement for success, because women are stereotyped as not possessing such talent. This hypothesis extends to African Americans’ underrepresentation as well, as this group is subject to similar stereotypes. Results from a nationwide survey of academics support our hypothesis (termed the field-specific ability beliefs hypothesis) over three competing hypotheses.

  • Received for publication 17 September 2014.
  • Accepted for publication 25 November 2014.

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  • Perspective Social Science Gender inequality in science
    • Andrew M. Penner

Science 16 January 2015: 234-235.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6219/262.short

Here is the press release from the University of Illinois:

Public Release: 15-Jan-2015 Study supports new explanation of gender gaps in academia

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It isn’t that women don’t want to work long hours or can’t compete in highly selective fields, and it isn’t that they are less analytical than men, researchers report in a study of gender gaps in academia. It appears instead that women are underrepresented in academic fields whose practitioners put a lot of emphasis on the importance of being brilliant – a quality many people assume women lack.

The new findings are reported in the journal Science.

The research, led by University of Illinois psychology professor Andrei Cimpian and Princeton University philosophy professor Sarah-Jane Leslie , focused on a broad swath of academic disciplines, including those in the sciences, the humanities, social sciences and math.

The researchers focused on the culture of different fields, reasoning that stereotypes of women’s inferior intellectual abilities might help explain why women are underrepresented in fields – such as physics or philosophy – that idolize geniuses.

The team surveyed more than 1,800 graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty members in 30 academic disciplines and, among other things, asked them what qualities were required for success in their fields. Across the board, in the sciences, technology, engineering and math (the so-called STEM fields), as well as in the humanities and social sciences, women were found to be underrepresented in those disciplines whose practitioners put a premium on brilliance.

“We’re not saying brilliance – or valuing brilliance – is a bad thing,” Cimpian said. “And we’re not saying women are not brilliant or that being brilliant isn’t helpful to one’s academic career. Our data don’t address that. What they suggest is that conveying to your students a belief that brilliance is required for success may have a differential effect on males and females that are looking to pursue careers in your field.”

The team also tested three other hypotheses that might help explain women’s underrepresentation in some fields: one, that women avoid careers that require them to work long hours; two, that women are less able than men to get into highly selective fields; and three, that women are outnumbered by men in fields that require analytical, systematical reasoning.

“We found that none of these three alternative hypotheses was able to predict women’s representation across the academic spectrum,” Leslie said. “A strong emphasis on brilliance among practitioners of particular fields was the best predictor of women’s underrepresentation in those fields.”

The researchers are still investigating whether women are actively avoiding fields that focus on cultivating brilliant individuals, or if practitioners in those fields are discriminating against women based on their beliefs about women’s aptitudes. A combination of the two is certainly plausible, Cimpian said.

“There is no convincing evidence in the literature that men and women differ intellectually in ways that would be relevant to their success across the entire range of fields we surveyed,” Cimpian said. “So it is most likely that female underrepresentation is not the result of actual differences in intellectual ability – but rather the result of perceived or presumed differences between women and men.”

###

Editor’s notes:

To reach Andrei Cimpian, call 217-333-0852; email acimpian@illinois.edu.

The paper, “Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines” is available to members of the media from scipak@aaas.org.

How classes are taught and how girls and woman are encouraged makes a huge difference in the fields women choose for their education and work.

Phoebe Parke of CNN wrote in the article, Ask the experts: How do we get girls into STEM?

  1. “The toys and games that young girls play with mold their educational and career interests; they create dreams of future careers.” says Andrea Guendelman, co-founder of Developher

  2. “Introduce girls early to role models of other women In STEM” suggests Regina Agyare, founder of Soronko Solutions….

  3. “It’s important to engage girls in STEM at an early age and keep them interested.” adds Patty L. Fagin, PhD, Head of School at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart.

  4. “There’s no magic recipe for getting girls into STEM, but we know early and positive exposure makes an impact.” Karen Horting, CEO and Executive Director at the Society of Women Engineers told CNN….

  5. “Start them young.” is Michelle Sun, Founder and CEO of First Code Academy‘s advice….

  6. “I believe one on one mentoring programs with accomplished female STEM professionals will help bring girls in to the STEM field.” says Adeola Shasanya who recently co-founded Afro-Tech Girls and works at the Lagos State Electricity Board as an Electrical Engineering and Renewables Consultant….

  7. Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Lift London, Microsoft Studios believes confidence is key; “Insatiable curiosity and the self confidence to make change in the world — two qualities that are key to instil in the female innovators of the future….

  8. “Women are the future of technology and today’s technology is fun and cool.” says Weili Dai, President and Co-founder of Marvell Technology Group

  9. “Time and again, I hear from women who chose their STEM career because they were inspired by a successful woman who proved it could be done.” adds Suw Charman-Anderson, Founder of Ada Lovelace Day….

  10. “To get more girls in STEM let’s go for collective action…” says Julie Kantor, Chief Partnership Officer at Million Women Mentors

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/27/world/europe/how-to-get-girls/

It is going to take a variety of strategies which include mentoring, exposure to what is now considered nontraditional fields and encouragement of girls and women not only entering nontraditional fields, but staying the course.

Related:

Study: Gender behavior differences lead to higher grades for girls

http://drwilda.com/2013/01/07/study-gender-behavior-differences-lead-to-higher-grades-for-girls/

Girls and math phobia

http://drwilda.com/2012/01/20/girls-and-math-phobia/

University of Missouri study: Counting ability predicts future math ability of preschoolers

http://drwilda.com/2012/11/15/university-of-missouri-study-counting-ability-predicts-future-math-ability-of-preschoolers/

Is an individualized program more effective in math learning?

http://drwilda.com/2012/10/10/is-an-individualized-program-more-effective-in-math-learning/

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Is a small school better for students than small class size?

12 Jan

There is an ongoing discussion or battle about whether class size matters in effective learning. Class size reduction theory has both supporters and skeptics. Leonie Hamson writes in the Washington Post article, 7 Class Size Myths — And the Truth      http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/class-size/7-class-size-myths—-and-the.html There is of course, a contrary opinion. The Center for American Progress has a report by Mathew M. Chingos, The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction   https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2011/04/14/9526/the-false-promise-of-class-size-reduction/

Gina Jordan reported in the State Impact article, Why Small Schools Might Be Better For Students Than Small Classes:

Now, an analysis by government watchdog Florida Taxwatch finds that small classes do make a difference in outcomes for kids in kindergarten through 3rd grade – but not in higher grades. The report’s author, Bob Nave, says the state is better off focusing on smaller schools, like SAS, rather than small classes.

“It’s fairly common sense that smaller classes should result in improved student performance,” Nave says. “The problem is the research just doesn’t back that up.”

The group compiled research showing students in smaller schools do better in math and reading, have fewer behavior problems, and participate in more extracurricular activities. They’re also more likely to graduate.

Nave says the state was actually on a path toward having smaller schools in 2000, when the Florida Legislature passed a law limiting the size of new schools under construction.  Then, the class size amendment passed.

“The Legislature was forced not only to fund small schools, but now they had to fund small classes,” Nave says. “When one looks at the amount of money that was projected for school construction, it became clear that the Legislature could not do both.”

So lawmakers repealed the school size law to focus on class size……                                               http://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/2015/01/05/report-small-schools-trump-small-classes-in-academic-outcomes/

See, New evidence that small schools work?   http://hechingered.org/content/new-evidence-that-small-schools-work_4750/

Here are the conclusions and policy implications from Smaller Schools, Not Smaller Classes:

Conclusions

Based on a literature review, the findings of studies analyzing the effects of school size on student achievement, student behavior, curriculum, economies of scale, and teacher quality suggest the following recurring themes:

  • Student academic achievement is higher in small schools, and this is especially true for minority and low-income students.
  • A greater percentage of students in small schools participate in extracurricular activities, and greater participation is associated with a variety of positive outcomes, including: higher self-esteem, higher educational aspirations, less delinquency, and greater involvement in community activities as an adult.
  • Small schools offer a climate that is more conducive to learning.
  • The cost per student is generally higher in a small school; however, once the size of a school exceeds some optimal level, the cost per student begins to increase, not decrease.
  • Although large schools generally offer a wider range of courses than small schools, there is no reliable relationship between school size and the quality of curriculum.
  • Large schools have an advantage over small schools in terms of teacher qualifications.
  • There is no clear agreement among researchers and educators about what constitutes a “small” school or a “large” school. What is considered to be a large school to one researcher may be considered a small school to another.

Policy Implications

The research suggests that two U-shaped relationships exist with respect to school size, one for student achievement and one for cost efficiency. In both relationships, there is a point at which the positive benefits associated with school size begin to diminish.

This suggests that there is an optimal size for public schools in Florida, above or below which produces diminishing returns in terms of student achievement and cost efficiency. An optimal school size could be calculated that represents the range in the number of students in which school size continues to show a positive relationship between student achievement and cost efficiency. Andrews, et al. (2002), reviewed a number of production function studies and found some evidence that moderately sized elementary schools (300-500 students) and high schools (600- 900 students) may optimally balance economies of size with the negative effects of large schools.

The Florida Legislature recognized the benefits associated with small school size and, in 2000, enacted legislation that required all plans for new educational facilities to be constructed to plans for small chools.

Small schools were defined as follows:

  • Elementary schools—student population of not more than 500 students;
  • Middle schools—student population of not more than 700 students;
  • High schools—student population of not more than 900 students;
  • Combination (K-8) schools—student population of not more than 700 students; and
  • Combination (K-12) schools—student population of not more than 900 students.

The establishment of enrollment limits for new school construction by the

Legislature was a responsible action supported by a substantial body of research demonstrating the positive benefits of small school size. The voters, however, put the Legislature in a difficult position in 2002 with the passage of the constitutional amendment establishing class size limits. This forced the Legislature to fund both small schools and small class sizes. Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds, the primary source of funding for new educational facility construction, decreased from $807.0 million in fiscal year 2002-03 to $752.4 million in fiscal year 2003- 04 and no significant increase in PECO revenues was projected over the short term.

With insufficient revenues to fund both small schools and small classes, the Legislature acted responsibly when it repealed the requirements for small school construction in 2003. This is a good example of a popular initiative trumping a sound public policy that is based upon a competent and substantial body of

empirical research…..   http://www.floridataxwatch.org/resources/pdf/SmallSchoolsFINAL.pdf

The battle between those who say class size matters and those who say it does not continues to simmer.

Related:

Reducing class size in an era of reduced state budgets

http://drwilda.com/2012/06/16/reducing-class-size-in-an-era-of-reduced-state-budgets/

Battle of the studies: Does class size matter?

http://drwilda.com/2012/01/30/battle-of-the-studies-does-class-size-matter/

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Ohio State University study: Fast food linked to lower test scores in 8th graders

3 Jan

Patti Neighmond reported in the NPR story, It Takes More Than A Produce Aisle To Refresh A Food Desert:

“The next part of the intervention is to create demand,” he says, “so the community wants to come to the store and buy healthy fruits and vegetables and go home and prepare those foods in a healthy way, without lots of fat, salt or sugar.”
Ortega directs a UCLA project that converts corner stores into hubs of healthy fare in low-income neighborhoods of East Los Angeles. He and colleagues work with community leaders and local high school students to help create that demand for nutritious food. Posters and signs promoting fresh fruits and vegetables hang in corner stores, such as the Euclid Market in Boyle Heights, and at bus stops. There are nutrition education classes in local schools, and cooking classes in the stores themselves….
The jury’s still out on whether these conversions of corner stores are actually changing people’s diets and health. The evidence is still being collected. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/10/273046077/takes-more-than-a-produce-aisle-to-refresh-a-food-desert

In other words, much of the obesity problem is due to personal life style choices and the question is whether government can or should regulate those choices. The issue is helping folk to want to make healthier food choices even on a food stamp budget. See, Cheap Eats: Cookbook Shows How To Eat Well On A Food Stamp Budget http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/08/01/337141837/cheap-eats-cookbook-shows-how-to-eat-well-on-a-food-stamp-budget    A University of Buffalo study reports that what a baby eats depends on the social class of the mother. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/04/the-stark-difference-between-what-poor-babies-and-rich-babies-eat/

Science Daily reported in Fast-food consumption linked to lower test score gains in 8th graders:

The amount of fast food children eat may be linked to how well they do in school, a new nationwide study suggests.

Researchers found that the more frequently children reported eating fast food in fifth grade, the lower their growth in reading, math, and science test scores by the time they reached eighth grade.

Students who ate the most fast food had test score gains that were up to about 20 percent lower than those who didn’t eat any fast food, said Kelly Purtell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University.

“There’s a lot of evidence that fast-food consumption is linked to childhood obesity, but the problems don’t end there,” Purtell said. “Relying too much on fast food could hurt how well children do in the classroom.”

The results remained even after the researchers took into account a wide variety of other factors that may have explained why those with high fast-food consumption might have lower test scores, including how much they exercised, how much television they watched, what other food they ate, their family’s socioeconomic status and characteristics of their neighborhood and school…..

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141222111605.htm

Citation:

Fast-food consumption linked to lower test score gains in 8th graders

Date:           December 22, 2014

Source:       Ohio State University

Summary:

The amount of fast food children eat may be linked to how well they do in school, a new America-wide study suggests. This study can’t say why fast-food consumption is linked to lower grades, but other studies have shown that fast food lacks certain nutrients, especially iron, that help cognitive development. In addition, diets high in fat and sugar — similar to fast-food meals — have been shown to hurt immediate memory and learning processes.

Fast Food Consumption and Academic Growth in Late Childhood

  1. Kelly M. Purtell, PhD1
  2. Elizabeth T. Gershoff, PhD2

1.     1The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA 2.     2The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA

  1. Kelly M. Purtell, Department of Human Sciences, The Ohio State University, 1787 Neil Avenue, Columbus OH 43215, USA. Email:purtell.15@osu.edu

Abstract

Objective. The objective of this study is to examine the associations between fast food consumption and the academic growth of 8544 fifth-grade children in reading, math, and science. Method. This study uses direct assessments of academic achievement and child-reported fast food consumption from a nationally representative sample of kindergartners followed through eighth grade. Results. More than two thirds of the sample reported some fast food consumption; 20% reported consuming at least 4 fast food meals in the prior week. Fast food consumption during fifth grade predicted lower levels of academic achievement in all 3 subjects in eighth grade, even when fifth grade academic scores and numerous potential confounding variables, including socioeconomic indicators, physical activity, and TV watching, were controlled for in the models. Conclusion. These results provide initial evidence that high levels of fast food consumption are predictive of slower growth in academic skills in a nationally representative sample of children.

Here is the press release from Ohio State University:

Fast-Food Consumption Linked to Lower Test Score Gains in 8th Graders

The more children ate in 5th grade, the slower their academic growth by 8th grade

By: Jeff Grabmeier

Published on December 22, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The amount of fast food children eat may be linked to how well they do in school, a new nationwide study suggests.

Researchers found that the more frequently children reported eating fast food in fifth grade, the lower their growth in reading, math, and science test scores by the time they reached eighth grade.

Students who ate the most fast food had test score gains that were up to about 20 percent lower than those who didn’t eat any fast food, said Kelly Purtell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University.

“There’s a lot of evidence that fast-food consumption is linked to childhood obesity, but the problems don’t end there,” Purtell said. “Relying too much on fast food could hurt how well children do in the classroom.”

The results remained even after the researchers took into account a wide variety of other factors that may have explained why those with high fast-food consumption might have lower test scores, including how much they exercised, how much television they watched, what other food they ate, their family’s socioeconomic status and characteristics of their neighborhood and school.

Purtell conducted the study with Elizabeth Gershoff, associate professor of human ecology at the University of Texas at Austin. The results are published online in the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

Data from the study came from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Kindergarten Cohort, a nationally representative study of students who were in kindergarten in the 1998-1999 school year. It was collected by the National Center for Educational Statistics.

This study included about 11,740 students. They were tested in reading/literacy, mathematics and science in both fifth and eighth grades. They also completed a food consumption questionnaire in fifth grade.

“Fast-food consumption was quite high in these students,” Purtell said.

Less than a third (29 percent) of the children did not have any fast food during the week before they completed the questionnaire. But 10 percent reported having fast food every day while another 10 percent ate it four to six times a week. Slightly more than half of the children ate fast food one to three times in the previous week.

[KP1] Children who ate fast food four to six times per week or every day showed significantly lower gains in all three achievement areas compared to children who did not eat any fast food the week before the survey.

However, children who ate fast food just one to three times a week had lower academic growth compared to non-eaters in only one subject, math.

“We’re not saying that parents should never feed their children fast food, but these results suggest fast-food consumption should be limited as much as possible,” said Purtell.

Purtell emphasized that this study cannot prove that fast-food consumption caused the lower academic growth observed in this study. However, by controlling for other possible explanations for this link, such as family background and what other food they ate, and by looking at change in achievement scores, the authors are confident fast food is explaining some of the difference in achievement gains over time.

In addition, because the study examined only changes in test scores between fifth and eighth grade it controls for all the early childhood factors that may affect test grades.

This study can’t say why fast-food consumption is linked to lower grades, she said. But other studies have shown that fast food lacks certain nutrients, especially iron, that help cognitive development. In addition, diets high in fat and sugar – similar to fast-food meals – have been shown to hurt immediate memory and learning processes.

The research was supported by grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.                                                                                      http://news.osu.edu/news/2014/12/22/fast-food-consumption-linked-to-lower-test-score-gains-in-8th-graders/

Children will have the most success in school if they are ready to learn. Ready to learn includes proper nutrition for a healthy body and the optimum situation for children is a healthy family. Many of society’s problems would be lessened if the goal was:

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©

Related:

School dinner programs: Trying to reduce the number of hungry children               http://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/school-dinner-programs-trying-to-reduce-the-number-of-hungry-children/

School lunches: The political hot potato                                                                            http://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/school-lunches-the-political-hot-potato/

The government that money buys: School lunch cave in by Congress http://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/the-government-that-money-buys-school-lunch-cave-in-by-congress/

Do kids get enough time to eat lunch?                                                        http://drwilda.com/2012/08/28/do-kids-get-enough-time-to-eat-lunch/

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