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Articles: Teaching & Learning

According to an American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) survey, in 2007-2008:
18% of U.S. public school students were enrolled in foreign language courses
40% of those enrolled in a foreign language were in California, Texas, New York, Florida, or Pennsylvania
17 states, half of them in the northeast, reported a decrease in the number of students enrolled in a foreign language

While education research has long suggested that studying second languages in K12 schools boosts student achievement in other content areas, the current testing emphases on mathematics and reading has placed foreign language instruction relatively low on district priority lists. However, a growing body of research indicates that second-language learning should be bumped up significantly, as demonstrated particularly in the following areas.

A few months ago, a Chinese family moved into a house down the block from our home in New Jersey. The two kids playing in the front yard looked about the age of our own teenagers, so within a few days we did the neighborly thing and introduced ourselves. The good news? The family seemed genuinely happy to meet us. The bad news? They barely spoke a word of English. There was a lot of smiling and pointing (to our house) and uncomfortable sound-making from both kids and adults, but we didn’t manage to communicate very much in our brief encounter.

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ACE (Autism Curriculum Encyclopedia),New England Center for Children,

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The National Standards Project found 11 established treatments that have scientific evidence to support using them with children with autism:

• Antecedent Package: Implementing behavioral interventions to prevent a certain behavior. For example, moving a child who fidgets or cries in the back to the front of the class.

• Behavioral Package: Initiating actions to encourage a particular behavior. For example, giving children tokens for raising their hand before speaking.

Enter “teaching students with autism” in Google, and more than 8 million results pop up instantly. Is it any wonder public school administrators, not to mention parents, are overwhelmed with the task of educating children on the autism spectrum?

The tornado that tore through Joplin, Mo. in May 2011 killed more than 150 people, demolished thousands of homes and businesses, and damaged or destroyed 10 public schools. Though students were affected by the tragedy, many remain afraid to ask for the mental health services they may need.

Odvard Egil DyrliGrowing up in a bilingual home near New York City, where my brother and I were the only ones who spoke Norwegian in our elementary school, I remember being asked to translate for newly-arrived Scandinavian students whose parents were assigned to the UN.

The accidental deaths of two special needs students from Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Fla. this year are shedding light on the need for comprehensive, mandatory emergency preparedness training for paraeducators.

Mary Beckman, a now-retired special education teacher in the Elk River (Minn.) School District, says that new discoveries in neuroscience, and the face-to-face and online approaches they have helped create, aren’t the only way to influence the developing brains of young students.

Beckman argues that there’s a longstanding approach that does its part to develop the brain—handwriting. Eight years ago, that belief led Beckman to co-develop the ez Write Handwriting Program and start her own consulting company.

For generations, teachers in the early elementary years have urged their young pupils to use their brains. They’re still offering the same encouragement, but nowadays they can know even more about what they’re talking about.

Recent advances in neuroscience—from detailed scans of the brain to ongoing research on teaching methods that increase cognitive development—have ushered in a new era of “brain-based” education.

Working with vinyl cutters, students in the Mahtomedi School District’s engineering program create their own folder covers.

Students taking the ‘How to Make (Almost) Anything’ class at Mahtomedi High School in Mahtomedi, Minn. can literally make almost anything—from chess pieces to cups to chairs, and DVD cases to clocks to lampshades—right in their classroom. And besides getting a daily dose of amazement, these students are making history in the first public school district with access to such groundbreaking, hands-on STEM education.

Nathan Levenson, author of “Boosting the Quality and Efficiency of Special Education.”More special education funding in a district does not necessarily result in greater student achievement—in fact, it can lead to less, says a first-of-its-kind report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.