Photo by Falls Church City Public Schools Local union president Jonathon Pepper was on hand to greet Duncan and welcome him to the school. Students may not need to know your political views, but they do need to be aware of current events. UFT President Michael Mulgrew pointed out that the scores “are largely based on discredited state tests, have huge margins of error and are filled with inaccuracies.” Judge Cynthia Kern called the data “possibly flawed,” but she said “there is no requirement that data be reliable for it to be disclosed.” Even though the numbers may be wrong, she said, they are of interest to students, parents, and the public. Adolescence can be a very rehabilitative time. Gaming actually turns on the same areas of the brain as cocaine.

So what can teachers and other educators do with this new information about brains? FJ: Teenagers are learning machines. The ones requiring rigorous brain activity — and that includes our exams — probably should be placed no later than late morning. Young people have some hidden strengths that we don’t have as adults.  The National Education Association had recommended Duncan visit George Mason High School, which provides a strong example of the types of achievement possible when classes are small, students receive individualized attention, and high goals are set.

Remember, your students will find out anyway. U.S. One way in which I have worked to talk to my students about real world issues is by serving as an advisor at my school for a student group called S.i.D.A. — the group is centered around Social Awareness, Inclusion, Diversity and Acceptance. The 10 authors include four former presidents of the American Educational Research Association and two former presidents of the National Council on Measurement in Education. They will get addicted to the Internet, more than adults.

Does what we know about the brain mean we should be turning our attention to more restorative approaches? FJ: This is a huge issue, and I actually contributed to two amicus briefs before the U.S. The adolescent brain is a work in progress, “a puzzle waiting completion,” says Dr. But the “brakes,” or the way they regulate themselves is more limited. Creating a space to discuss and debate world issues is instrumental for these children to become engaged citizens. That’s why we often see more risk-taking behavior in boys than girls.

They also plan events for the school to spread awareness and foster a more inclusive environment. And it’s setting a positive example. Similar warnings came in reports from the National Research Council, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, and the National Education Policy Center. “Placing excessive emphasis on test scores alone can have unintended and undesirable consequences that undermine the goal of developing an excellent teaching force,” said the National Education Policy Center paper, which went on to describe ways teachers should be evaluated, with multiple measures for the complex array of skills that teaching entails. That gives them a great ability to learn but it’s also a hidden vulnerability. In the book you describe the many things that are happening — or not yet happening — in the teenage brain. Rehab or intervention strategies are most effective in this age window because their brains really are plastic.

Their circadian clock is 2-3 hours off from adults, and their melatonin does not get released until 2-3 hours after adults’ release. And there also is addiction to consider. They love learning this cool stuff about themselves! Do the differences between boys’ and girls’ brain development make a case for single-sex education?  FJ: I’m a product of single-sex education — although I didn’t necessarily like it at the time! Girls hit a sweet spot, when the myelin (the fatty substance that insulates brain circuits) is increasing and the synapses are coming down, about two years before boys. Last summer, a panel of 10 of the nation’s leading testing experts, convened . “Adopting an invalid teacher evaluation system and tying it to rewards and sanctions is likely to lead to inaccurate personnel decisions and to demoralize teachers, causing talented teachers to avoid high-needs students and schools,” these experts said.

As educators, we often have no control of what is going on in the world around us, but we can be there to inform our students of what is happening, provide emotional support and sometimes even draw teachable moments from these events. This is just as true now as it was 17 years ago. It starts in the front of the brain and moves forward. I wish I hadn’t. Frances Jensen, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and the co-author of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults (Harper), with Amy Ellis Nutt. Instead of preaching, I let the students discuss the merits and pitfalls of any argument, and only step in if something is disrespectful or seems like it needs further study or clarification. They can imprint — on good things and bad things.

Can you explain what you mean when you say it’s like a Ferrari that’s all revved up… FJ: But doesn’t have any brakes! There are a few basic points about brain development that I always try to make: First of all, the brain is the last organ in the body to mature, and it isn’t done until the mid- to late-20s. The Los Angeles Times calculated their own value-added scores based on test scores obtained from the Los Angeles school district, and published them, complete with teacher names, last summer. So when you’re in college, it’s not done, and it’s certainly not done in high school. More than 90 percent of George Mason graduates attend either four-year or two-year colleges, and the school was the first in Virginia to use the International Baccalaureate program in its advanced placement classes.

But experts on standardized testing have warned against relying on value-added scores for judging teacher effectiveness. Supreme Court about the inappropriate life sentencing without parole for children in the criminal justice system. Sleep is a big part of it. You also can change your IQ in this window, significantly, which brings up the issue of the late bloomer. All juvenile mammalian species do this, it’s not unique to humans.

There are sometimes very serious consequences for students who violate discipline codes: suspensions and expulsions that lead to increased chances of dropping out, or entering what we call the school-to-prison pipeline. The last place to connect is the frontal lobe, the seat of our executive function, our empathy, our judgment, our risk control… Interestingly, on average, males are a couple of years behind females in making these kinds of connections, although there are always individual variations. I wanted to inform my students about the legislation and history of American gun ownership, but knew it would be an overstep to share my own opinions on the matter. We obviously want to foster these conversations, but we are also public employees, and it’s important to stay as neutral as possible in order to promote truth seeking and balanced, fair debate on all sides of any issue. The world can’t shift itself, but you might think about what topics to put at the beginning of the day. They’re kind of like wires, conducting electrical signals.

As educators, it is our responsibility to prepare our students for the real world, and that means we need to have conversations about real social issues. It turns out that our brain regions connect to each other, front to back, side to side, and we use tracks to do that. New York is not the first city where media outlets have taken action to publish value-added scores for individual teachers. In the book, you explain how stress affects teenage brains more acutely than adult brains, and that the hormone usually released in response to stress to modulate anxiety has a reverse effect in adolescents, making them even more anxious! But much of what happens in high school and college is stressful, with high-stakes testing, increased enrollment in Advanced Placement testing…  FJ: And, of course, social networking is so competitive too! It is distractingly stressful for these kids, and it means their brains are not going to be functioning at their optimum. How do we remind them of that vulnerability?

How do we teach them to manage these competing influences? Mindfulness should be a big part of their education: being mindful of the effects of stress or social networking on their brains. I knew my students were probably even more scared than I was, and I remember thinking it was my responsibility to show a brave face and make my students feel calm and safe by treating it like a normal school day. Photo: Eva Abreu By Kevin Hart U.S. Learning is about building circuits in your brain, or making connections between brain synapses – this is called “synaptic plasticity.” All of the machinery that makes your synapses bigger, and the number of synapses themselves, are set at higher levels in children.

The hope is that teachers can remind their students, good and bad students, how to help their brains function optimally. They should know that downtime is really important. When we wake them up at 6 a.m., it’s like up waking up an adult at 3 a.m. It does beg the question of how the school day should be structured. That heightened synaptic plasticity is the “revved up” part.

That generally is happening at ages 12-14 for girls, and 16-18 for boys. And yet, we ask them to be at that SAT testing center with pencils sharpened at 7:30! That’s not a great time for their brain to perform. Judge Kern did not actually order the release of the value-added scores, which had been requested The Department of Education had promised the union in writing that the data would be kept private, but then reversed course. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan continued his teacher appreciation tour this week with a Thursday visit to George Mason High School, a small, high-performing school in Falls Church, VA.

The United Federation of Teachers, representing New York City’s public school teachers, immediately announced it would appeal the ruling. It’s actually a very positive message! Most kids do not get real learning assessments that show their relative strengths and weaknesses. Duncan is visiting several schools during National Teacher Appreciation Week to thank and honor the nation’s 5 million teachers. As an advisor, I was there as they were making signs and I offered advice, but I was sure to stick to the facts, and let them draw their own conclusions and opinions.

While my students were definitely scared, I still wish I had talked about the terrorist attack with them. There is so much news and controversy and division in the world right now, and as an educator, it can be tough to find the line when it comes to bringing up current issues in a class setting. Wouldn’t it be great to know at age 13 that I’m a verbal learner, and my calculations are a little weaker? You have the best shot at actually changing that during this period of heightened plasticity. It isn’t always easy, but the most important thing to do is provide guidance and a safe space for these conversations to begin.

We have the computational ability to do this — even if it’s a 45-minute screening at the end of 8th grade. During our meetings, the students talk about a variety of issues like gender bias, police brutality and sexual harassment. Recently, Jensen spoke with NEA Today about how the mysteries of the teenage brain can be better understood by parents and educators. Should educators be doing those for all kids, or do you think they’re not necessary for students meeting educational goals? FJ: Instead of assessing the bottom 10-20 percent who are performing at the bottom of the class, I believe everybody needs a little screening.

The school as a whole is beginning to talk about other issues like this, and students are beginning to start healthy dialogues. While not every student or educator in the school shared this group’s views, students across the school have started having conversations about gun violence, which is a solid step forward. The school is consistently rated as one of the top-performing high schools in American by Newsweek magazine, and has been recognized for Excellence in Education by the U.S. Department of Education. We should get it explicitly on the table: ’you should know, the emotional parts of your brain are running the show, you have a paradoxical reaction to stress…’ When I’ve given Brain 101 talks to kids, they have been fascinated.

Our society puts them in a special place where their primary purpose is to learn — and this is excellent because they’re extremely well-equipped to do that. I first realized this on September 11, 2001. It’s really valuable for the students, giving them a space to learn more about world issues and see different perspectives, but it can be challenging as an educator. The experts say these scores swing wildly from year to year, and, although they look impressively exact, actually tell very little about the “value” that teachers “add” to their students. With a student body of about 820 students in grades 8-12, George Mason is one of the smallest public high schools in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area.

The problem is we have hundreds of miles of these connecting fibers in our brain and it takes a very long time to connect and insulate all of them. Duncan visited several classrooms, handled the morning announcements, and spoke with students about the country’s need for more teachers. There are studies where they teach subjects like calculus to 12- to 14-year-old girls and they do very well! The data would say that it’s probably worth studying… It’s an interesting topic and should be looked at. The problem is, if you’re sleep deprived, your learning is going to be affected.

Their sleep patterns are different, and there is real biology to explain why. We need to teach kids to be sensitive to their brain health. Young people need to know that they have many more years to remap themselves, to reconfigure who they are. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits a class at George Mason High School in Falls Church, VA. I was teaching in New York at the time, and I remember being struck with horror when I heard the news of the terrorist attacks. For instance, addiction, which is a form of learning, is stronger, faster, and longer in younger people.

Whether you help foster these conversations by advising a student club or by finding ways to talk about the news in your classroom, be sure to constructively engage with what is happening in the world. Recently, my students organized a sit in to start a conversation about gun violence in schools. Even if “value-added” scores are unreliable, teachers’ names and their scores can still be released publicly, a New York judge ruled this week.

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