A Number Two Pencil and a Three-Point Shot

Mary-Dean Barringer, CEO, All Kinds of Minds

March has come to be associated with “madness,” particularly for NCAA basketball fans. We cheer for our favorite college team during the tournament, but we are enthralled by the unexpected Cinderella story. We love the team – previously overlooked or counted out – that surprises us all with stunning performances. In recent years, Davidson, George Mason, Gonzaga have each worn the Cinderella label. We wonder… where did they come from? Who knew they could play like that? But we shouldn’t be surprised. These Cinderella teams have something in common: well-prepared coaches and otherwise-overlooked stars who found the right environment in which to perform.

Schools face their own version of March Madness in the form of state and district-wide testing. Principals know that their school will be ranked and judged by this performance, fearing that test performance may obscure an otherwise successful season. They will get data needed to assist segments of students, but they worry about inadvertently defining groups by what they do and do not know. Most importantly, principals and teachers know that this kind of data won’t help them discover the students who could be part of their Cinderella story. But there is help on the way.

March 2009 brings a new twist to the madness and possibly a huge opportunity. It’s not NCAA, but ARRA, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. By now you probably know that a mini-tsunami of money is coming to schools by April 1. The challenge of ARRA is to spend it “quickly and wisely,” in the words of the press release, while addressing the four education reform targets of the Obama administration.

I’ve included a little background and links so that you can access the latest guidelines for using these so-called stimulus funds. The bottom line is that the U.S. Department of Education is in the process of sending Title I and IDEA money to your state right now. The U.S. DOE is urging education leaders to “focus these funds on short term investments with the potential for long term benefits.” Principals and school leaders who want to fund professional development to expand the capacity of their staff have a window of opportunity. Let your state department know you want to fund programs that enable teachers to become learning experts and better assess and manage students’ unique learning profiles through descriptive data and targeted research-based strategies. [You can track the distribution of funds on the official government recovery website: www.recovery.gov]

At All Kinds of Minds, understanding HOW students learn is our specialty. Giving educators this knowledge to ensure that students learn is our mission. We stand ready to collaborate with you to understand how to bring the science of learning to the art of teaching. Together, we’ll discover the promise within your most puzzling learners and help all students maintain a thirst and eagerness to learn.

Join the discussion about how students learn and share your own “student Cinderella story” by commenting below.

3 thoughts on “A Number Two Pencil and a Three-Point Shot

  1. I came to this website/blog through the SALT website at University of Arizona. I know of SALT as I have until recently been the Director of College Counseling at an independent school. Here is my question for AKOM. I have a 15 year old son who has LD issues as well as clinical anxiety – diagnosed and treated since he was four years old. Testing is in the superior range on many of the assessment tests he has taken. He really does not like school and has only done well in the classes where he likes the teacher and he feels that the teacher “gets” him. He rarely completes his high school homework and those he does, he does not turn in. He is often “not present” in mind during his classes. He is taking ADHD meds as well as anxiety meds. We re-evaluate these often and keep a close watch on their effects. After a “perfect storm” scenario early this winter, we withdrew him from his high school and are fortunate that he is able to take classes at an accreditted tutoring center. He is working one-on-one with a tutor and is taking online courses through BYU – high school level courses. The social pressure of the large suburban high school is eliminated and he is also able to work part time doing things he loves – constructing furniture and helping with a business that manages second homes. I know that he will be very successful when he is older – college should be interesting for him as he can be more flexible in what he takes. The answer I am looking for is what do I do for the next three years to get him through high school? I thought I was well-versed in different learning styles – I’ve attend many conferences and worked with many different types of students and parents. I’ve read! My own child has me stumped – I guess that is a truism! Any thoughts and opinions?

    • We’re posting this response because this is a great example of the kinds of students we want to help educators understand and work with in their classrooms. While All Kind of Minds does not directly consult individual students, we encourage those of you with ideas on this to share your insights as to what else this terrific parent can do to help a talented and complex learner! Any thoughts?

      • I too have worked in an Independent, College Preparatory School and saw many students that didn’t find a fit in public school or a smaller private school. The key, finding what he is good at and letting him have time for those activities, is what you have already done. There are some alternative High Schools dedicated to specific careers like zoological, aeronautical or botanical interests. My son was not a good fit for public school and we chose a military academy which he will tell you was the best thing he could have done. He was on the honor color guard, weightlifting team and soccer team. There are schools that focus on the individual learner and have been trained in the neurodevelopmental framework such as Wasatch Academy in Utah (an All Kinds of Minds School of Distinction) and Oregon Episcopal School in Portland just to name a few. You are in tune to his needs and now your task is to find a school that is a good fit.

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