Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tools of the Mind Curriculum Implementation - Imholz and Petrosino (2012)

Space Shuttle Enterprise flies over Hoboken 4/27/12
The following is a publication in Creative Education. Recall that I was the Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Hoboken, NJ during all or part of the 2007-08, 2008-09, and the 2009-10 school years.

While in the district, one of my personal highlights was bringing the preschool program known as Tools of the Mind to the Hoboken Public Schools. This was done with a great deal of help from Ms. Jessica Peters (then Early Childhood Director) Ms. Amy Hornbeck (from Tools of the Mind) and Superintendent Jack Raslowsky. The program is entering its fourth successful year of operation in the district.

There has been a great deal of research on student learning and Tools of the Mind. The following is research that was conducted concerning the teachers who implement the program and I believe makes a nice contribution to the literature. I conducted this work along with my colleague, Dr. Susan Imholz. -Dr. Petrosino

Abstract: The following pilot study reports on teacher observations and reflections of implementing the Tools of the Mind curriculum in pre-k and kindergarten classrooms in an east coast urban school district in the US. The study followed five teachers over the course of a school year. Structured interviews were conducted with each teacher individually shortly after Tools of the Mind teacher training sessions took place. The analysis reports on themes that emerged in these conversations. Findings address; challenges the teachers faced in implementing the program, training issues, and the effectiveness of the program in supporting children’s intellectual and social skills.


Reference: Imholz, S. & Petrosino, A. (2012). Teacher Observations on the Implementation of the Tools of the Mind Curriculum in the Classroom: Analysis of Interviews Conducted over a One-Year Period. Creative Education, 3,185-192.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Notice and Agenda for the April 17, 2012 Hoboken Board of Education Meeting

What follows is the Notice and Agenda for the April 17, 2012 meeting of the Hoboken Board of Education.

Some highlights of the meeting included a wonderful awards ceremony in the beginning of the meeting recognizing a number of district faculty and students. The Teacher of the Year from each school and March's Students of the Month were announced. A comprehensive summary of the awards by Hoboken Patch entitled "Students and Teachers Honored at the Board of Education" can be accessed by clicking HERE.

In addition to the awards and honors, the April 17, 2012 meeting also involved a number of other topics including:

1) A fairly long back and forth between 3 fathers representing "Hoboken Dads" and the Board of Education concerning the use of the pool at Hoboken High School.
2) Some discussion about changing back to the Middle School Model rather than the current setup of grades and schools (not quite K-8 since 8th grade is now housed in HHS).
3) Discussion about the number of Special Ed parents lawsuits (evidently high)
4) Public comments by Ms. Patricia Waiters concerning the recent changing of the Board of Education elections from April to November. Ms. Waiters also raised concerns about the number of home schooled students in Hoboken High School.
5) Board Trustee Biancamano once again asked about the fees for the consulting/law firm for negotiation of the teacher's contract. No answer was given.
6) District calendar for 2012-13 still not set
7) Trustee Gold read from a letter stating that there are currently "12 administrators" in the district

A fairly long and rather spirited discussion of this meeting took place online with many issues arising that some followers of this blog may find interesting.

Agenda for Public Meeting April 17 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Tale of Two Worlds: Old School, New School

When was the last time you put your hands on a tape recorder? How about a slide projector or an overhead projector? Unless you’re stuck in some type of time warp, it’s probably been a while. In this age of technology, which allows us to do just about everything on our smartphones or online — from online shopping to online learning — these tools may seem like they’re from eons ago. Yet, it’s our youngest generation who is, more than likely, all too familiar with them. Teachers, because of lack of funds, are reporting that they’re still using these outdated instruments in the classroom. Yet, they’re still tapping into modern tools like Facebook, YouTube and podcasts to connect with their students. Take a look at how educational tools have evolved over the years.

online learning
[Via: Colorado Technical University online learning]

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

EDC 385G: Computational Thinking in STEM and the Learning Sciences

Dear Students and Colleagues,
I am announcing an Advanced Topics course for the Fall of 2012 semester: Computational Thinking in STEM and the Learning Sciences. There will be a 10 person enrollment limit to the course. Students, please consider this course as you think about your Fall 2012 schedule and advisers (STEM, C&I, IT, Ed Psy), please consider this course as you advise appropriate students. Cheers, -Dr. Petrosino

Unique Number: 09315
Wed 7-10pm SZB 526
Instructor: Dr. Anthony Petrosino
No prerequisites
Notes: There will be a 10 person limit on enrollment for this course

Computational thinking provides people with “a way to abstract what they’re already doing and talking about…. Connecting computational thinking in a personally meaningful way is at the heart of tackling the problem of how everyone can be brought into a pathway for developing and using computational thinking in their everyday lives.” -Roy Pea

The goal of this Advanced Topics course is to gather inputs and insights from computer scientists, information technologists, and disciplinary experts knowledgeable about how computational thinking might be relevant from their domains of expertise to our understanding of STEM education and related fields. The course will also leverage the work of education researchers and cognitive scientists familiar with educational dimensions of computational thinking. Some questions this course will investigate include, What is the structure of computational thinking? How can a computational thinker be recognized? What is the relationship between technology and computational thinking? What are some pedagogies for promoting computational thinking? This will be largely a reading seminar with occasional guest lectures. There will be some online discussions as well as a final product.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hoboken dual language charter school to include fourth grade students after receiving $2,500 grant

Here is a wonderful article on the recent news that the Hola Dual Language Charter School will be expanding to the 4th Grade for the 2012-2013 academic school year. The article was written by the Jersey Journal correspondent Travis Fedschun and was published online on March 8, 2012. -Dr. Petrosino.

A Hoboken charter school will be expanding to include fourth-grade students next year with some help from the Provident Bank Foundation.

The Hoboken dual language charter school, HoLa, will expand after being awarded a $2,500 grant from the foundation to support the construction of two new fourth-grade classrooms.

“The Provident Bank Foundation is thrilled to support the expansion of such a unique and multicultural school. We’re excited to help the school continue to grow and increase enrollment,” said Kendall Warsaw, executive director of the Provident Bank Foundation in a statement.

The classrooms are slated to open for the 2012-2013 school year at the school, which serves currently teaches students in kindergarden through third grade in a Spanish-English dual language curriculum.

“All of the support from the Provident Bank Foundation has been vital in helping HoLa accommodate its growing needs, and has allowed our organization to set the groundwork for two exciting and very essential, new classrooms,” said Jennifer Sargent, president of the Board of Trustees at HoLa in a release.

The school, located at 123 Jefferson St., opened in 2010 with grades kindergarden through second grade and has since expanded its curriculum each year to include another grade level until the organization reaches the goal of teaching students in kindergarden through fifth grade classes.

© 2012 All rights reserved.

Picture: A HoLa teacher begins small group work with her kindergarteners. (credit: Jersey Journal)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter By Yudhijit Bhattacharjee (SCIENCE journal)

Many of the regular readers of this blog will recall the efforts that were made to begin a dual language program in the Hoboken Public Schools in 2009. While the initiative had many supporters at the time, it was voted down by the Hoboken Board of Education in a close vote. The program is now a charter school in Hoboken and enjoying great success and popularity.

Below is a wonderful article summarizing the research that shows the scientifically proven value of being bilingual. These are not new findings, the research was known and presented to the Hoboken Board of Education at the time they voted down the dual language program in Hoboken, but it summarizes the work very well.

Dual language programs and charter schools are now sweeping the country. Each year more and more are being added with the second language being spanish, french, italian, chinese, etc...

-Dr. Petrosino

SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.

In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.

The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.

Why does the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition? Until recently, researchers thought the bilingual advantage stemmed primarily from an ability for inhibition that was honed by the exercise of suppressing one language system: this suppression, it was thought, would help train the bilingual mind to ignore distractions in other contexts. But that explanation increasingly appears to be inadequate, since studies have shown that bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.

The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.

The bilingual experience appears to influence the brain from infancy to old age (and there is reason to believe that it may also apply to those who learn a second language later in life).

In a 2009 study led by Agnes Kovacs of the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, 7-month-old babies exposed to two languages from birth were compared with peers raised with one language. In an initial set of trials, the infants were presented with an audio cue and then shown a puppet on one side of a screen. Both infant groups learned to look at that side of the screen in anticipation of the puppet. But in a later set of trials, when the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen, the babies exposed to a bilingual environment quickly learned to switch their anticipatory gaze in the new direction while the other babies did not.

Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.

Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is a staff writer at Science.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 25, 2012

The Gray Matter column on bilingualism last Sunday misspelled the name of a university in Spain. It is Pompeu Fabra, not Pompea Fabra.

Picture: Harriet Russell (NY Times)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Teachers Think White Females Lag Behind in Math, University of Texas at Austin Study Finds

The following research was conducted under the leadership of my colleague Dr. Catherine Riegle-Crumb. The work is thought provoking and has many implications for secondary STEM instruction. -Dr. Petrosino

AUSTIN, Texas — High school math teachers tend to rate white female students’ math abilities lower than those of their white male peers, even when their grades and test scores are comparable, according to a University of Texas at Austin study.

Dr. Catherine Riegle-Crumb and sociology doctoral student Melissa Humphries conducted the study using nationally representative data from the Education Longitudinal Study (ELS) of 2002. The ELS followed a cohort of about 15,000 students from their sophomore year in high school through their post-secondary education and into the work force.

“If the math bias against females is present in elementary school, which past research shows it is, and continues through high school and then college, then it’s much less likely that you will find women pursuing math-related high-status occupations in science and technology,” said Riegle-Crumb, an assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction and a faculty research associate at the Population Research Center in the College of Liberal Arts. “If you perceive the message ‘You’re just not quite as good at math as the boys are’ often enough, you may start to believe it.”

Teachers’ perceptions of students’ math abilities was one portion of the data gathered by the ELS. The teachers were asked to rate students on whether the math class in which the students were enrolled fit their abilities, was too easy for them or was too difficult for them.

“The bias teachers revealed against white female students may very well be something they are not consciously aware of, and it’s usually subtle,” said Riegle-Crumb, “but it’s definitely present, per our research findings.”

Previous research documented that racial bias persists and is pervasive. But this study is the first to reveal, at the high school level, that white female students are deemed less capable in math when measured against white males whose academic performance is comparable. Riegle-Crumb said it’s particularly disturbing that these teacher perceptions manifest at a time when most students are making decisions about post-secondary education and careers.

According to Riegle-Crumb, the majority of teachers rated both male and female minorities’ math abilities lower when their test scores and grades were indeed low, which does not constitute “bias” because there is reasonable data to support that evaluation. This does not suggest that minorities are free from substantial negative stereotyping, which can affect their academic and career aspirations and achievement.

“It’s important to keep in mind that even though the math bias against females in any one classroom may be small, taken over a lifetime and with thousands of accumulated experiences, it can influence one’s identity as well as the perceptions of others,” said Riegle-Crumb.

The study findings will be published in the April 2012 issue of the journal Gender & Society.

Note: The University of Texas at Austin Office of University Communications is providing the following news release in the form of text. The article also will be posted in the "News Releases" section of the university's Web site at

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Girls Are Smarter Than Boys, So What Goes Wrong In Math And Science? [Infographic]

Girls in STEM
Created by: Engineering Degree

Project Based Units from Our UTeach PBI Class- Spring/Fall 2010

Project-based instruction (PBI) engages learners in exploring authentic, important, and meaningful questions of real concern to students. Through a dynamic process of investigation and collaboration and using the same processes and technologies that real scientists, applied mathematicians and engineers use, students work in teams to formulate questions, make predictions, design investigations, collect and analyze data, make products and share ideas. Students learn fundamental science and mathematical concepts and principles that they apply to their daily lives. Project-based instruction helps all students regardless of culture, race, socioeconomic status or gender engage in learning.
I'm always being asked to present examples of student work in the PBI units they generate. Here are a number of nice examples from the Spring 2010 and Fall 2010 semesters. Enjoy!

Thanks to colleagues Dr. Cesar Delgado, Sara Hawkins, and Tara Craig

Picture: Texas Bluebonnets, March 31, 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Texas Superintendent John Kuhn: Texans Rebel Against Testing

The following article was written by Anthony Cody. Cody spent 24 years working in the Oakland, CA public school, 18 of them as a science teaching. He now leads workshops on project based learning. The full text of this article can be found at Education Week and by clicking HERE.

Texas has become a hotspot of rebellion against standardized testing. Earlier this year, state education commissioner Robert Scott compared test publishers to the military industrial complex. More than 100 school districts have passed a resolution saying standardized testing is "strangling" their schools. And on Saturday, several thousand Texans gathered at the state capitol in Austin for the Save Texas Schools rally. One of the speakers was a man we first heard at a similar protest more than a year ago, Superintendent John Kuhn.

Here is what Superintendent Kuhn had to say. (Click here to see VIDEO of Kuhn's Speech)

When a government fails to safeguard the development of its most vulnerable children and fails to ensure the advancement of their well-being; When the Constitution no longer guides its leaders and the people must sue the state to force it to honor its promises; When moderation is lost by those in power alongside honest dealing and the greater good, then that government must be held accountable in the court of public opinion. A statement of our just grievances is in order. This government has failed to establish an equitable system of education, although possessed of almost boundless resources; and more shameful yet, possessed of the wise words of our fathers who recorded that "a people must be educated" for liberty to survive. This government has allowed state testing to become a perversion, growing like Johnson grass through the garden of learning and choking to death all knowledge that isn't on the test, killing ancient wisdom like debate, logic, and ethics--deep human learning that once provided this state a renewable crop of leaders who knew courage instead of expedience, truth instead of spin, and personal risk for the public good instead of personal enrichment and reelection at all costs. This government has eroded the authority of locally-elected school boards to make decisions about everything from school calendars to curriculum, replacing local control with Austin control and local blame. They have no confidence in local trustees or the voters who put them in office.

This government has found the money to pay the Pearson Corporation $500 million for a test while cutting $5 billion from the fund that pays for teacher salaries. This government has financed never-ending tax breaks for incredibly wealthy businesses by wringing our classrooms like a washcloth. This government has mandated so much remediation in tested subjects that vocational training won't fit into student schedules; this government has imperiously decided that all children are college bound whether they like it or not. It has encouraged the proliferation of tax-funded for-profit schools that kick out and keep out the students who are hardest to teach, because when it's about profit, it's not about kids. This government's representatives have repeatedly lied to the voters, shamelessly calling a $5 billion cut an increase. This government has chosen to fund favored schoolchildren at two and three times the rate allocated for less favored children, whose only offense is living in the wrong Texas zip codes; It has created a strict accountability system for teachers while NOT developing any system whatsoever to illuminate the progress of politicians in remediating out-of-school factors that devastate student test scores; factors like parental unemployment go unmeasured, racial income disparities--that's a gap no one tries to close--child homelessness is irrelevant, crime and incarceration rates for fathers are too unimportant to track, rates of drug use and child abuse and preventable illness do not matter because those are factors that lay squarely within the politicians' realm of responsibility, and they just keep getting worse.

But they don't want to talk about the gaps in their data; they want to decry the status quo in classrooms and preserve the status quo in Austin. If the teacher is the quarterback, Congress is the offensive line. Their performance impacts our performance, but they keep letting us get sacked by poverty, broken homes, student mobility, hunger, health care. And they just say "Oops" as that linebacker blows by them and buries his facemask in our chest. Then we get back to the huddle and they say, "You gotta complete your passes." We're aware of that. Make your blocks, legislators. Give us time to stand in the pocket and throw good passes. Do your job. It doesn't take a great quarterback rating to win games; it takes a team effort. Have the elected officials in Austin made adequate yearly progress? Nobody knows, because they keep their achievement gaps swept safely under a rug so they can't be criticized, so they can't be held accountable for decades of zero progress. The human cost of their failures is staggering, but our politicians have seen fit to create an accountability system that holds least accountable those with the most power and influence.

This government has strangled true learning at the local level because of its addiction to bureaucratic coercion. Tragically, this government has lost sight of the exceptionalism of our state's character and has repeatedly lamented the quality of our students based on nothing but the comparison of their test scores to those of students in Europe and Asia, as if greatness doesn't exist outside of a standardized test; it has forgotten that the tests that make Texans great have never been taken with pencil and paper but rather were tests of bone and spirit taken at places like the Alamo and San Jacinto. Inside the Apollo capsule and on foreign shores, our kids have never failed the tests that matter. Our kids have passed countless tests of courage and ingenuity, tests of mettle and character and resilience. This government has neglected the classics and has called on our children to become technicians instead of humans, regurgitators of math and science facts, who produce well-rounded bubbles in place of well-rounded souls; it has sought to make our children quantifiable shells of people, their guiding light of curiosity snuffed out by an idiot's opinion of what constitutes a human education. These and other grievances were patiently borne by the teachers of Texas, until they reached that point at which patience is no longer a virtue. We appealed to our government last spring in this very spot, called upon those in power to encourage and support the teachers who day by day struggle to educate the poorest children in the most neglected corners of our state. Yet they responded to our entreaties with new condemnations of the work we do. Our appeals have been made in vain.

We are forced to the melancholy conclusion that this government favors business interests that want a profit-based education system that would enrich investors, rather than a publicly-owned system that enriches our children. You can keep your for-profit schools. I want a locally-elected school board that answers to me, to parents and local taxpayers, not to shareholders. I want a quality public education for ALL Texas children. I want adequate and equitable funding, so that families in every part of Texas can count on the consistent quality of our public school system like we count on the consistent quality of our interstate highway system, because we don't want to wreck our children any more than we want to wreck our cars. Texas officials, you build your hateful machine that blames teachers for the failures of politicians; we'll still be here teaching when your engine of shame is laid upon the scrapheap of history. For now, we'll bravely take these lashes you give because we know that--no matter what you say--the only crime of the public school teacher in 2012 is his or her willingness to embrace and teach broken children. If that's a crime, then find us guilty. If caring for the least of these makes us unacceptable, then bring on your label gun. We're not afraid.

Those interested in more about Superintendent Kuhn, please look at this link with an op ed he wrote about accountability: CLICK HERE.