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The Teaching Brain

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Submitted by Vanessa Rodriguez

We’ve been hearing long, loud, and numerous complaints about the state of education and the need for radical reform of our educational system. We’ve heard about the limitations of high stakes standardized testing and the need for more accountability for our teachers.  The problem of education in this country today is vast, complicated and emotionally charged. Educators, scientists, psychologists, government officials, and bestselling authors are all part of the mix of voices that are creating the conversation and, in part, prolonging the controversies.

But it seems the biggest elephant in the proverbial room is how we think about teaching and our teachers. Both sides of the teaching debate have sought to define “good teaching.” However this effort is as misguided as one that would label a student “good learner”.  We need to keep the terms “good” and “teaching” forever more apart. Indeed, the concept of a perfect teacher for all students is a complete myth.  Instead we need to be asking new questions.

Our questions should begin with one in particular:  “What is teaching?”  Teaching is a human, evolutionary skill.  In fact, though we may not be in a classroom we are all teachers.

Four years ago, as a doctoral student at Harvard Graduate School of Education, I made a startling and it turns out profound connection between the cognitive psychology and neuroscience I had been studying and the practice of teaching:  I realized that for all we know about the nature and science of learning, especially the discoveries in brain research, we have grown very little in our insight into the teaching process. Why is this? Why has teaching, an interaction so integral to the foundation of education, been given such short shrift? Quite simply it is because no one has ever really bothered to understand how the teaching process, and its corollary, the teaching brain, are separate and distinct from the learning process, or the learning brain.

As a former Science, History, and English teacher, I have spent over a decade teaching in the classroom and I’ve learned that learning and teaching, while inextricably related, are separate, distinct processes. And that in order for  us to understand the teacher in all of us, whether it be in the classroom or the boardroom, we need to demystify teaching based on a complete understanding of the cognitive, biological, and psychological processes of the brain. The series of studies that I have worked on are based on this quest to uncover these processes of the teaching brain.

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Vanessa Rodriguez is a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of the The Teaching Brain: The Evolutionary Trait at the Heart of Education.

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Order your copy of Ms. Rodriguez's book The Teaching Brain. Visit Ms. Rodriguez's web site.

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Tags:  cognitive psychology education reform Harvard Graduate School of Education neuroscience standardized testing The Teaching Brain Vanessa Rodriquez what is teaching?

New Guidelines, Standardized Test Accommodations

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Tuesday, January 12, 2016

boy struggling with text

By Janet Thibeau

For years, students with disabilities have been denied accommodations when taking the LSAT exam, even when they’ve submitted the proper paperwork. This year, that’s changed, and not just for the LSAT, but for all national standardized tests. This ruling has far-reaching implications for any student who will be taking a standardized test and requesting accommodations. If you are student or the parent of a student who will be taking a standardized test, it’s important to understand these guidelines, each testing entities’ process for requesting accommodations, and the appeal process to use if your request for accommodations is denied.

Background

In 2010, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) began an investigation into the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the group that administers the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). In 2012, the Department of Justice intervened in the class action. They alleged widespread failure to accommodate exam takers with disabilities, even in cases where applicants had submitted proper paperwork and demonstrated a history of testing accommodations. In 2014, the lawsuit was settled, and on September 8, 2015, the Justice Department issued a technical advisory about standardized testing accommodations that applies to many of the most popular national tests.

What standardized tests are covered?

The advisory applies to exams administered by any private, state, or local government entity, including:

  • High school equivalency exams (such as the GED)
  • High school entrance exams (such as the SSAT or ISEE)
  • College entrance exams (such as the SAT or ACT)
  • Exams for admission to professional schools (such as the LSAT or MCAT)
  • Admissions exams for graduate schools (such as the GRE or GMAT); and
  • Licensing exams for trade purposes (such as cosmetology) or professional purposes (such as bar exams or medical licensing exams, including clinical assessments.)

Key points

Key points in the new advisory include:

  • Students who receive testing accommodations in school based on an IEP or Section 504 Plan should generally receive the same accommodations on standardized tests.
  • Students who receive informal accommodations should not be considered ineligible for accommodations on standardized tests.
  • Students who receive testing accommodations in a private school, without an IEP or Section 504, should generally receive the same accommodations on standardized tests.
  • High grades should not prevent a student from receiving accommodations. Students who perform well academically may still be entitled to test accommodations.
  • Students who receive accommodations on similar standardized and high-stakes tests should generally receive the same accommodations for additional tests. Documentation of previous accommodations should be sufficient.
  • Documentation used to support a request for testing accommodations must be reasonable and limited to what is needed to determine diagnosis and the need for accommodations. Acceptable documentation should include recommendations from medical professionals, proof of previous accommodations, and observations of educators.
  • Testing entities should defer to documentation from a qualified professional who has made an individualized assessment of the candidate that supports the need for the requested testing accommodations.
  • A testing entity must respond in a timely manner to requests for testing accommodations so as to ensure equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.
  • Testing entities should report accommodated scores in the same way they report scores generally. Flagging policies that impede individuals with disabilities from fairly competing for and pursuing educational and employment opportunities are prohibited.

ADA Testing Accommodations

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About the Author

Janet Thibeau works for Barlow Thibeau & Associates Education as a college consultant and educational advocate. She is the President-elect of MABIDA, the Massachusetts Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. Janet and her husband Jim have five children, four who have dyslexia. One of her children is a Landmark School alum and another is a current Landmark student.  

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Tags:  Accommodations ACT dyslexia GED Landmark School language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities SAT standardized testing testing accommodations

Comparison of the SAT and ACT

Blog Type:  College Prep Date Posted:  Friday, June 22, 2018

Read more posts about Navigating the College Admissions Process for Students with Learning Disabilities

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Most colleges accept both SAT and ACT test scores. Use this comparison of the two tests to decide which is best for you or your student.

  SAT I ACT
General Information
  • Test length: three hours (plus 50 minutes for optional essay)
  • Students can apply for and be granted up to 100% extended time
  • Two required sections (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math)
  • One optional section (essay)
  • Test length: three hours, 25 minutes
  • Students can apply for and be granted up to 50% extended time
  • Four required sections (English, Math, Reading, and Science)
  • Optional and recommended writing test.
Scores
  • Score in each subject area can range from 200–800
  • Total score range is from 400–1,600
  • Score of 6–24 for essay
  • Score of 1–36 for each test section
  • Composite score of 1–36 based on average score of the four test sections
Incorrect Answer
  • No deduction for incorrect answers
  • No deduction for incorrect answers
Content
  • Evidence Based-Reading and Writing
  • Math: Arithmetic Through Trigonometry (there is a "no calculator" section)
  • Reading Comprehension
  • English
  • Math: Arithmetic Through Trigonometry
  • Science
  • Optional Essay
Essay
  • Optional
  • Last section of the test
  • Scored on Reading, Analysis, and Writing
  • Scored on a scale of 2–8 on each of these areas
  • Optional
  • Final section of the test
  • Not included in composite score
  • Topic is generally important to high school students
Test Dates

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Tags:  ACT college admissions college advice SAT standardized testing transition to college
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