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Asking Students to Sit Still Can Have Dire Consequences

Sitting and limited activity can have detrimental effects on the elderly, but did you know that this can also have negative consequences on children too? What we are discovering is that excessive sedentary behavior has serious health ramifications at all ages, and one of the biggest culprits that breeds inactivity is school.
Stuck seated motionless behind desks only to come home with a full agenda of homework, results in school children spending an average of 8.5 hours of their day sitting.  In fact, sitting increases after age 8 when school, homework and technology consumes their time. What’s more, youngsters are continually asked to sit still, as movement is often labeled distracting to classmates as well as the teacher.  These learners that wiggle and squirm in and out of their seats are often considered troublesome and some of these kinesthetic kids are even place on ADHD medications to temper their excessive commotion and exuberance.
What are the Deleterious Effects of Sitting too Much on Kids?
Inactivity can result in a number of problems for school-age children:
  • Obesity: Sitting slows metabolic rate resulting in the diminished burning of calories.
  • Heart Disease: Sitting increases blood sugar and decreases the burning of fat.
  • Muscular Atrophy: Excessive sitting can cause ones muscles to degenerate.
  • Osteoporosis: Sitting can lead to poor bone density which is a precursor for osteoporosis.
  • Circulation: Sitting causes blood circulation to slow and blood can pool in the legs.
  • Inattention/lethargy: Sitting reduces the amount of blood and oxygen that reaches the brain resulting in a decline in cognitive performance.
What Can Teachers Do to Skirt a Sedentary Style?
  • Integrate activities into your lessons that allow students to get up and move around.
  • Encourage your students to get out of their seats at least once an hour and engage in a minute of exercise.
  • Provide adjustable desks for your students, so they have the option of standing or sitting on a tall stool.  Many schools are now using standing desks with a foot swing. See image below.
  • Use sites like GoNoodle that offers kinesthetic brain breaks for young learners.
  • Get involved with organizations like Let’s Move and https://www.designedtomove.org/

Bringing movement into your classroom will only help you and your students to improve attention, retention, motivation and alertness; but regular activity will lead to better test scores, improved behavior, and the integration of healthy habits.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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The Power of Nonprofits: Solving the U.S. Achievement Gap

This week, I am featuring an insightful and impressive guest blog by Marissa Zych.  

_________________________________
As
an advocate for global literacy and accessible education, it’s difficult for me
to swallow the United States education pill that is the achievement gap.
Directly related to both the learning and opportunity gaps, the achievement gap
commonly refers to the “significant and persistent disparity in academic
performance or educational attainment between groups of students.” The roots of
this disparity run deep.
According
to the National Education Association, the student groups that commonly
experience achievement gaps (as indicated by test performance, access to key
opportunities, and attainments such as diplomas, advanced degrees, and future
employment) include racial and ethnic minorities, English language learners,
students with disabilities, and students from low-income families. Inner-city
schools, which some researchers call “dropout factories,” are often at the
heart of this issue, due in part to their high numbers of minority and
impoverished students.
The
U.S. government’s No Child Left Behind law of 2002 was overrun with issues and
failed to make notable improvements. And while a number of city schools
nationwide have taken the issue into their own hands, working to improve the
quality of their teachers and their graduation rates with some success over the
last decade and a half, experts agree that gradual change over time will not
cut it. As recently as 2012, African American and Hispanic students trailed
their peers by an average of 20 or more test points, according to the National
Assessment of Educational Progress.
In general, the
students experiencing achievement gaps have a higher chance of dropping out of
school. These dropouts face significant trials in acquiring employment and
attaining economic stability. Female dropouts are at a unique economic
uncertainty. As compared to male peers, girls who fail to earn their diploma have
higher rates of unemployment; make notably lesser wages; and are more inclined to
depend on help from public programs to accommodate for their families.
A
Nonprofit Solution
It’s
important to note that many of these inadequate strategies have been centered on
making changes within regular school hours — changes that take time to
implement. How can we make a more immediate impact on our schools, outside of
school?
Independent
studies have shown that superior after-school programs lead to positive
academic outcomes, including improved test scores, grades, attendance, dropout
rates, and increased interest in learning. Evidence also suggests that they
lead to a decrease in juvenile crime rates and notable boosts in self-esteem
and confidence.
Unfortunately,
many city school districts that need these programs the most lack the policy
and/or budgetary support, making education-based nonprofits a crucial part
of the solution
.
A
growing number of reports on the performance of education-based nonprofits
prove that their after-school and/or summer programs have a positive impact on
students and their families. They provide disadvantaged youth with a safe and
engaging environment, extended time spent on diverse subject matter,
mentorship, and psychosocial and intellectual enrichment in exciting contexts
and settings that aren’t available in school.
So, What Does a Superior
Program Look Like?
  •  MOST: While it’s no longer active, The Wallace Foundation’s Making the Most Out-of-School-Time (MOST) fundraising initiative partnered with other
    like-minded organizations in Boston, Chicago, and Seattle from 1993-1999 to
    increase the awareness and availability of after-school programs. The MOST
    contributed to the foundation of evidence that now proves how necessary these
    kinds of programs are to bridging the achievement gap.
  •  Girls Do Hack: Giving youth an opportunity to learn
    something that they wouldn’t normally learn inside the classroom is important,
    specifically young women. Young women are not always considered for roles in science,
    technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries. With the help of Misha
    Malyshev
    in
    association with the Adler Planetarium, Girls Do
    Hack
    gives young
    women a safe space to discover and be encouraged to learn and find their skills
    in these fields.
  •  826 National: A personal favorite, 826 National is a nationwide organization. It tackles the literacy and
    learning issues of students (ages 6-18) through programs centered around
    creative writing and is currently run by Gerald Richards. Their centers offer free programs including after-school
    tutoring, field trips, creative workshops (cartooning, anyone?), and their
    young authors’ book project. According to Arbor Consulting Partners, “students
    [at 826 National] develop ‘habits of mind’ that support the achievement of
    positive academic outcomes.”
There are a number of factors that affect a student’s chance at
successfully navigating their way to graduation. That’s where these education-based
non-profits really fill the gap in the education system. It isn’t possible for
every teacher, principal, school sentry and janitor to solve every potential
problem students have. Their plates are already loaded with getting students to
pass standardized testing, dealing with administrative issues and keeping
schools safe and clean. It’s the non-profits that have the opportunity to see a
problem and analyze it, to come up with a creative solution without the same
restrictions our school systems and administrators face, and to engage children
and their parents in a manner that is more likely to work within those
parameters. It certainly isn’t easy to create a successful non-profit. It takes
heart, great support, and engaged stakeholders. These are some non-profits out
there that have stood out and have done a wonderful job.
                                                 
Thank you Marissa for writing this blog and sharing your insight!
Marissa Zych is a twenty year old student at RIT. She is interested in the education and political landscape and is from Albany, New York.  She loves getting involved in her community and seeing positive change through giving back. She likes to volunteer her time at after school programs, nursing homes, and animal shelters where she rescued her cocker spaniel puppy Bowie!


Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Free Webinar on Multisensory Teaching

Dear Friends:

I wanted to send you an invitation to attend a free webinar on Multisensory Teaching, featuring myself as the guest speaker. The hosts, Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide, the co-authors of The Dyslexic Advantage and The Mislabeled Child, are international authorities on dyslexia and learning differences.  They are featuring this online event on August 21st at 5:30 Pacific Standard Time or 8:30 Eastern Standard Time. You can register by clicking on the following link.

http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e7zd7jgodceef30d&llr=u5ihfjnab

Cheers, Erica

Sharing a Powerful Analogy used by Sir Kenneth Robinson

Sir Kenneth Robinson continues to inspire educators around the globe with his ideas for educational reform.  He uses the following analogy in a recent Ted Talk entitled: How to Escape Educations Death Valley.

To view the whole video, click on the link below.
http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley.html

Cheers, Erica

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com  www.dyslexiamaterials.com and  www.learningtolearn.biz 

Student Mind Maps: Revealing the Remedial Needs of Struggling Writers

Having
an understanding of how each student processes information and conceptualizes
ideas is key in the remedial writing process.   Students can think in a sequence of images, a series
of words, webs of pictures, an outline of phrases, a collage of imagery, a
patchwork of terms, movie-like scenes and more.  By evaluating the ways your students conduct the process,
you can help them to tweak their method so that writing can become a fluid and
enjoyable process.  This can be
done through discussion, but what I find to be most helpful is having your
student(s) conduct a drawing of how their mind works – a mental mind map.

I
discovered the utility of this mindful approach when working with a student,
JT.  Time and time again, JT
struggled to get his ideas on paper, and beginning the process was always a
chore.  What’s more, first drafts
tended to be a hodgepodge of overlapping ideas.  We often referred to JT’s difficulties as road blocks, and
when I finally asked JT to draw what it was like in his mind to write, we
discovered a very different issue. 
JT didn’t suffer with writers block, he experienced more of a writer’s
bottleneck.   The
term bottleneck is a metaphor that is often used to describe the traffic
congestion created when construction takes a multilane road and limits travel to
a single lane.  Soon traffic gets
backed up and travel becomes slow and frustrating.  It comes literally from the slow rate of liquid outflow from
a bottle, as it is limited by the width of the exit – the  bottleneck.  JT’s challenge was not a result of a lack of words and ideas as we once
thought.  Instead, he was
overwhelmed with competing and overlapping ideas as represented in the image on
this page.  JT drew a complex web
of lines that was dotted with what he described as both good and bad
ideas.  Also, he remarked that
darker lines represent stronger ideas. 
Once I saw the image, it all made sense.  JT is highly intelligent, but he also has ADHD as well as
dyslexia.  Now it is clear how these
diagnoses impact his writing.  JT
is bombarded with a plethora of ideas and he has difficulty funneling and
organizing his thoughts into an ordered sequence of words.  When he writes, he too becomes frustrated
with the slow and labored process of writing in a linear fashion.  What’s more, his dyslexia, which
impacts his spelling, is an added hurdle and annoyance that distracts him
during the writing process.
So
now that I know JT’s challenge, what can I do to help him?
1) From the very beginning, I can help JT to define
the main ideas and topic sentences. 
2) I can also encourage him to use graphic
organizers or programs such as Inspiration to help JT to categorize his supporting
details and examples.
3) I can offer JT a computer with a spell check and
word prediction software.
4) When conducting research papers, I can help JT
define each main idea on a different colored index card.  Then, JT can organize each nugget of
information onto the best colored index card so that all the supporting details
and examples are categorized under the same color as the most appropriate main
idea.  Then, I can let him sequence
the supporting details and examples in an orderly fashion by arranging the
cards.  Finally, when JT is ready
to type his paper, he can alter the font color to match the colored index cards
so that he can be sure to get all the correct details and examples under the
best main idea.   Once the
paper is complete, JT can select the whole document and change the font color back
to black.
I
hope you will try having your students draw their own mental mind maps.  Allowing them to show the workings of
their inner mind will not only help others remediate areas of difficulty, but
it will help each individual have a better understanding of and power over his
or her own ways of processing.
I
would love to hear your thoughts.
Cheers,
Erica
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com  www.dyslexiamaterials.com and  www.learningtolearn.biz 

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11 End of the Year Activities Using Balls and Balloons

http://learningspecialistmaterials.blogspot.com/

Balls and balloons offer a
cheap and fun way to complete your school year.  What’s more integrating balls and balloons brings a tactile,
playful, and kinesthetic modality into the classroom.  Balls and balloons can be used to review the academic
content, as well as mindfulness activities and keepsakes.  Below is featured a variety of entertaining,
multisensory ideas.

Reviewing Key Topics from
the School Year
These games can be played
with an entire class in a large circle facing one another, or you can break the
students into small groups or pairs. 
1) Parts of Speech Game:  Place the parts
of speech on a balloon or ball.  Have
the students pass the balloon or ball to one another.  Instruct them to say aloud the first part of speech they
see.  Then ask them to provide a
word that is an example of that part of speech.  Players can not repeat a word that has already been used.  If they do, they are out of the game.
2) Figurative Language Game:  Place the figurative language terms on a balloon or ball.  Have the students pass the balloon or
ball to one another, and instruct them to say aloud the first figurative
language term they see.  Then ask
them to provide a phrase that is an example of that type of figurative
language.  Players can not repeat a
figurative language example that has already been used.  If they do, they are out of the game.
3) Types of Syllables Game:
www.learningspecialistmaterials.blogspot.com

Place the syllable types on
a balloon or ball.  Have the
students pass the balloon or ball to one another, and instruct them to say
aloud the first syllable type that they see.  Then ask them to provide a word that is an example of that
type of syllable.  Players can not
repeat a word that has already been used. 
If they do, they are out of the game.

4) Vowel Combinations or Vowel Teams Game:
Place the vowel combinations
on a balloon or ball.  Have the
students pass the balloon or ball to one another, and instruct them to say
aloud the first vowel combination that they see.  Then ask them to provide a word that uses that vowel
combination.  Players can not
repeat an example that has already been used.  If they do, they are out of the game.
5) Types of Sentences:
Place the types of sentences
on a balloon or ball.  Have the
students pass the balloon or ball to one another, and instruct them to say
aloud the first sentence type that they see.  Then ask them to provide a sentence that illustrates that
sentence type.  Players can not
repeat a sentence that has already been used.  If they do, they are out of the game.
6) Main Ideas and Details:
Place main ideas on a
balloon or ball.  Main ideas could
include transportation, colors, vacation spots and so forth.  Have the students pass the balloon or
ball to one another, and instruct them to say aloud the main idea that they
see.  Then ask them to provide a detail
that would be properly categorized under that main idea.  Players can not repeat a detail that has
already been used.  If they do,
they are out of the game.
Mindfulness Activities and Keepsakes
7) What I Learned:  Have the students sit in
a circle facing one another. 
Explain that the only person who can speak is the one holding the
ball.  Toss the ball to one of your
students and ask them to share the most important thing they learned over the
school year.  When they are
finished talking, have them toss the ball to another student.  Continue until all the students have an
opportunity to share their thoughts.
8) My Favorite Lessons:  
Have the students sit in a
circle facing one another.  Explain
that the only person who can speak is the one holding the ball.  Toss the ball to one of your students
and ask them to share their favorite lesson from the whole school year.  Ask them to also share why they like it
so much.  When they are finished
talking, have them toss the ball to another student.  Continue until all the students have an opportunity to share
their thoughts.
9) What I Like About Me and You:
Have the students sit in a
circle facing one another.  Explain
that the only person who can speak is the one holding the ball.  Toss the ball to one of your students
and ask them to share one thing that they like about themselves and one thing
that they like about the person who tossed them the ball.  When they are finished talking, have them
toss the ball to another student. 
Continue until all the students have an opportunity to share their
thoughts.
10) Memory Balls: Give each student a blank inflatable ball, such as a beach ball.  Provide permanent markers and let the
students go around and sign each other’s balls.  They can leave short messages too.  Be sure to say that all messages must be positive. 
11) Why I’m “Special” Balls:  Before
you begin this activity, ask your students to help you create a list of
positive adjectives that can describe people.  Place this list where all the students can see it.  Now, give each of your students a blank
beach ball or balloon.  Provide
permanent markers and have the students go around and write a positive
adjective that describes the person on the ball or balloon to whom it belongs.   Encourage the students to come up
with unique adjectives by looking at each ball and coming up with something
new. 
If you would like to learn about some
of my other popular games.  Go to: http://goodsensorylearning.com
There, you can even download freebies on some of my product pages.
I hope you enjoy these games!!  I
would love to hear you thoughts.
Cheers, Erica
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com  www.dyslexiamaterials.com and  www.learningtolearn.biz 

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Fun End of the Year Activities and Games

Fun End of the Year Activities and Games Linky Party

Cheers, Erica

Student Learning and Confidence can Skyrocket by Changing One Approach

Student Learning and
Confidence can Skyrocket by Changing One Approach

Many teachers fear the moment when a student will ask them a
question that they do not have the knowledge to answer.  This uncomfortable situation can cause
some teachers to change the subject, others will construct a roundabout
explanation, a few will make a guess and several may even discourage their
students from asking questions altogether. 

Students Learn to “Fake it”
When a teacher is unable to admit their lack of knowledge,
it sends a disagreeable message to the class. 
Students can usually tell when a teacher sidesteps a question and many
are dismayed when given faulty information or when questioning is discouraged.  They pick up on the insecure energy and
learn that it is shameful to admit that they, “don’t get it” and instead they
learn to “fake it” and give others the impression that they know the
information or understand what they are hearing when, in fact, they do not. 
However, there is another way to handle this situation that will benefit
both the teacher and the students.
Release your own Fear in the
Learning Process
Good
teachers must demonstrate a love for and confidence in the learning
process.  The first step to this
practice is to release any fear associated with the learning process.  A close second is to be comfortable
seeking assistance when gaps in knowledge arise.  Both these skills are best learned vicariously through
demonstrations.  Therefore,
educators must set an example for students to follow so they can feel safe and
comfortable asking questions. 
It’s Okay to Say, “I Don’t
know?”
So what’s the big deal about teachers admitting their lack
of knowledge when a student asks a difficult question?  Are they afraid that they will look unintelligent?  Do they fear that one of their students
could have the answer, but this would undermine their authority?  I, too, had this fear at one time and
over the years I have discovered that it is not only okay to say, “I don’t
know,” but, in fact, there are enormous benefits.
But How Can Your Lack of Knowledge
Help the Class? 
Showing students that you do not have the answer can be a
critical learning tool.  
·
It shows that you are a life long learner.
·
It shows that you appreciate questions that
expand    your knowledge.
·
It exemplifies that admitting your lack of
knowledge can start the process of finding the answer.
·
It provides an opportunity for you to share the
process of acquiring knowledge.
·
It encourages interactive learning and a
cooperative environment where students can feel safe sharing knowledge.
·
It teaches students to be curious.
·
It teaches students how to think critically.
·
It teaches students how to be inquisitive, confident
learners.
But How Can Teachers Integrate
this into Their Classrooms?
Teachers must release their own fears and tell students the
truth.  Personally, I like to word
it, “I’m not sure about that, let’s figure it out!”  After that, educators need to:
1) Always nurture confident queries.  Encourage students to ask questions.
2) Continually demonstrate how to find answers.  This can be done by asking those around
you (students and colleagues), searching the internet, consulting a book and so
forth.
3) Constantly cultivate an environment that celebrates and
supports exploration. Praise students for asking questions and
independently finding the answers. 
Create a question box for those that are shy, and let students volunteer
to answer the queries with their own knowledge or by volunteering to do the
research.
4) Repeatedly, show your students that teachers, too, are
comfortable admitting what we don’t know. 
Then find the answers or allow others to help you find the answers.  Always provide gratitude and positive
feedback to those that help.
If you have any other ideas or anecdotes I would love to
hear them!
Cheers, Erica
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com  www.dyslexiamaterials.com and  www.learningtolearn.biz 

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Helping Students to Record and Turn in Assignments

Recording assignments and turning in the finished product may
seem like a “no brainer” for many teachers, but did you know that executive
functioning, a key cognitive component in planning and organizing, is not fully
developed until many reach their early 20s?  What’s more, many young students are not allowed to use
modern technologies, such as smart phones and Ipads while at school to help
them with this process.  Furthermore,
many students are overwhelmed by the countless distractions in a busy classroom
and miss what appear to be clear directives.  So, what can we do to help students remember to record as
well as turn in assignments? 
Create a Structured,
Reliable Classroom Routine
:
   1)  
Plan assignments for the whole week.  This will save a lot of time and
trouble for everyone.
   2)  
Post assignments and reminders at the beginning
of class in a location that is easy to see. 
   3)  
Review new assignments as well as those that are
due, verbally, once everyone is settled down.
   4)  
Make sure that all the students record
assignments and check agendas for accuracy. 
   5)  
Print assignments out onto labels that students
can place into their assignment pads. 
This is great for students that have graphomotor weaknesses.
   6)  
Make a document or take a picture of written
assignments and email it to the students and students’ parents with a simple
email list.  
   7)  
When students hand in their assignments, give
them a sticker of a hand to place into their assignment pad.  This way they will know that they turned
it in. 
   8)  
To make sure everyone turned in their
assignments say, “Raise your hand if you turned in your assignment.”  Be specific about which assignment and
hold up a sample for all the students to see.
Offer a Consistent
and Planned Approach
for Missed Class Work and Assignments:
   1)  
Post assignments on the internet.  However, do not use this approach
unless the site is reliable and you can always post the assignments before the
end of the school day.
   2)  
Require that each of your students share their
contact information with at least 5 other students (Study Buddies).  This way students can contact one
another as needed. 
   3)  
Suggest a plan for how and when students can
make up the work.
   4)  
Email assignments to students and their parents.
   5)  
Allow students to email you finished assignments
when they are not able to attend class. 
   6)  
Communicate all missed work with students,
parents and any service providers.
If
you are looking for structured ways to help your students with planning,
organizing and time management, consider purchasing Planning, Time Management
and Organization for Success.  It
offers over 100 pages of graphic organizers and handouts that can help your
students with reading, writing, test prep, planning for long term assignments,
memory, active learning, motivation and more.  Click here or on the image to learn more.
Cheers,
Erica
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com  www.dyslexiamaterials.com and  www.learningtolearn.biz 

Why Do Finnish Schools Finish First? 10 Ways to Improve US Education

Let’s face it, the US education system is a mess.  Most kids are anxious and stressed, many
teachers are fearful and disrespected, countless parents are confused and
annoyed and scores of administrators are angry and aggressive.  When programs are hurting most, funding
is usually diminished.  Kids don’t
receive services until they are failing or close to failing, and if
interventions help these underachieving students, services are continually stripped
away as soon as they get their heads above water.  It’s a competitive, punitive, and dysfunctional system that
desperately needs radical reform. 

This blog post reflects back on and summarizes the main
points of an interesting article from The Atlantic Magazine published back in
December of 2011 entitled, What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success.  This is what
they suggest:

 10
Strategies for Success:
     1.    Assign
less homework!
     2.    Integrate
creative play into classroom lessons.
     3.    Get
rid of standardized tests.
     4.    Let
teachers create their own assessments.
     5.    Give
teachers appreciation, responsibility and respectable pay.
     6.    Improve
teacher training.
     7.    If
a teacher is not doing a good job, it must be addressed.
     8.    Teachers
and schools must stop competing and become cooperative.
     9.    Provide
equal education opportunities for all children regardless of income, background or location.
   10.    Offer
all students free meals, healthcare, counseling and guidance.
What do you think of these suggestions?  Do you have any other strategies that could help?

Here is the link to the
article: 
I look forward to hearing
your thoughts!
Cheers, Erica