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When I first started my journey into building safety and wellness tools to better protect students from bullying and cyberbullying, my goal was to empower students to always feel safe and secure at school. When children feel safe at school, they are willing to take more risks and subsequently learn more and faster. I continue to believe that almost every bully was once a victim of bullying. Bullying and cyberbullying are learned behaviors; they are behaviors we either model from others or learn from our personal experiences of being bullied. And I know that forgiveness and reconnection after an incident of bullying is essential to a bullying victim's continued social, emotional, and academic growth. But what I did not know at the beginning of my journey was that the majority of the social pain experienced by a bullying victim is not caused just by his bully. I will come back to this point, but first let's look at how society addresses bullying in schools. 

Most everyone in every community approaches solving a non-physical, social bullying incident by responding to the bully with a combination of punitive discipline (i.e. detention) and having the bully make amends (i.e. apologize to the victim); and in the most advanced schools, restorative discipline is applied to the bully (the bullies understand why what they did was wrong and they feel true remorse). Meanwhile, the parents of victims, more often than not, support their child with the timeless sticks and stones mantra, "sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you." And after the bully serves out his detention, gives his apology and after the victim receives his parental support, fortified with a rendition of "sticks and stones", everything is expected to return to normal. But things do not immediately return to normal for the victim and sometimes never return to normal. This is because the victim is still hurting from the continuing effects of social rejection and pain. The social pain is caused by the bystanders' inaction! And their inaction is rationalized by saying [that] no one will do anything about it, and sadly they would be right in school communities that lack "connected" school leaders. 

The reason the victim continues to feel pain is that he or she believes the bully speaks for the entire school. That is because the bystanders do and say nothing, and the victim starts to believe the bully speaks for everyone. Why else would everyone watch the bully tease the victim. Additionally, victims often believe since a bully is singling them out, they must not be liked by the rest of the school community. In instances of bullying, absence of any social support is perceived as mass rejection. So in today's bystander-dominated schools, the pain and social rejection of being bullied is immediately amplified by the bystanders themselves (the students, teachers, coaches, and administrative staff) just watching, unwilling to do what is right: to deny, in public, what the bully is saying about the victim. The bystanders become the bully's accomplices, unleashing real pain, the social pain of being bullied. 

Based on studies from around the world, we know that approximately 10% of students between ages 12-16 are bullied on a regular basis. These students are in real pain every day. We also know that these bullied students are seven times more likely than other students to report being depressed. They experience more suicide ideation and are four times as likely as others to make a suicide attempt and more likely to succeed. This is the status quo and represents the horrible truth that all of us, who are "bystanders," have to live with. No more need be said. #

Jeff Ervine is a recognized expert in online defamation, student online safety, restorative practices, and social networks. Jeff is the CEO of Bridg-it. He and his Bridg-it team are committed to helping school leaders everywhere improve the social and psychological safety of their students. 

Preparing for the LSAT Exam



Preparation for important tests is often worthwhile!  

I began teaching LSAT preparation while earning my JD at the University of Virginia (UVA) Law School, and I found one misconception to be a curious and recurring theme: many students believe (and some are told) that preparation for such tests is not likely to have much effect on the outcome. While this is a convenient belief to adopt for those who might not be interested in the prospect of preparing -- and from my experience, taking and teaching such tests --performance can improve (in some cases dramatically) with the right kind of study and preparation. 

With some perspective, preparation can be productive (and even enjoyable!).  

I have certainly found this to be true from my own perspective; I very much enjoy teaching, from when I was casually tutoring friends early on, to when my teaching took on a much more structured approach under the tutelage of a great teacher and friend back in 2004. I have found that a good perspective and approach can reduce the stress that is often considered an inherent part of such efforts -- and, importantly, help to ensure that such preparation can indeed be worthwhile. #

Steven Stein began preparing students for graduate level admissions tests over two decades ago. A graduate of UVA, The Law School at UVA, and the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, Steve scored in the 99th percentile on the LSAT, the GMAT, and the GRE.

Education Update (EdUp): What brought you to the field of fertility medicine?

Dr. George Kofinas (GK): I was lucky in my curiosity to be guided to this field. When I was finishing medical school in the 1970s, there was no such thing as fertility medicine. It began to form as a sub-specialty within obstetrics and gynecology after the first successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) birth in 1978; around the time I came to the US. And I jumped right in. The emerging science and the surgery were so exciting to me. With that, you could say that I've lived the entire history of fertility medicine - I was there at its conception, I've evolved with the field every step of the way, and I've also had the opportunity to conduct significant research over the decades which has helped us secure better outcomes for patients. It's the most beautiful field in medicine.

Dr. Jason Kofinas (JK): I decided to specialize in fertility medicine because I love helping create human life for people who can't. Every day, I feel like I'm making a difference in someone's life in a very positive and personal way, and through this process, I also get to know my patients very well because we spend so much time together. For me, while the medicine is important, it's not just about tests and procedures. The emotional side to fertility treatment is tremendously important and taking the time to know and support my patients establishes a connection that goes beyond any specific treatment. Also, growing up with my father in this field and with my mother who worked in neonatology was a wonderful introduction, though neither of them ever pressured me to go into medicine or into the fertility field, more specifically.

EdUp: What do you think has been the key to your success?

GK:Well, there are a lot of factors that have contributed to our success. For one, it's our comprehensive approach, which is to always investigate every aspect of a patient's infertility challenges first. It's only after this in-depth investigation that we move forward with a treatment plan. This initial discovery process can be a tedious and time-consuming process that many fertility practitioners don't spend as much time on anymore before proceeding with fertility treatment, but we think it's absolutely essential to optimizing the patient for success from the very beginning. Of course, once you know the source of the problem, you then need the expertise and skillset to address it, and we have the surgical expertise and resources to correct the anatomical problems that cause infertility, such as fibroids and endometriosis. In both these cases, surgery can be complex, and we often see and successfully treat cases that other physicians aren't willing to operate on.

EdUp: What's endometriosis and how does it affect fertility?

JK: Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial tissue is found outside the uterus.  It's a condition that unfortunately goes undiagnosed by many physicians and which many avoid operating on because the surgery is complex and requires a high level of expertise. But this condition is a fertility killer. Many clinics will go right to IVF, but we ask very specific questions that are associated with this condition. We go deep into their history, and if we suspect it, we'll perform a diagnostic, minimally-invasive laparoscopy and remove any lesions we find. We believe that diagnosing and treating endometriosis before IVF is beneficial to the overall success rate of the patient, and this approach has allowed us to have higher fertility success without fertility treatment once the endometriosis is treated.

EdUp: Designing and building this new facility from scratch must have been a huge commitment and undertaking. Why make this investment?

GK: MRSC was built with one important purpose in mind: to enhance every aspect of a patient's surgical experience and optimize her reproductive health. And so, in addition to the convenience of offering patients the full range of advanced fertility treatment capabilities under one roof - including lab testing, examinations, and surgery - we strongly believe that this centralized approach to fertility care will significantly improve patient outcomes beyond what we are already delivering, including shorter post-surgical recovery periods and extremely low infection rates due to the facility's advanced sterilization techniques. It will also be the first standalone reproductive ambulatory surgery center in New York State dedicated to the treatment of patients who suffer from a wide scope of gynecological conditions, including fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic pain, congenital abnormalities of the uterus, and infertility. 

JK: Everything in this facility has been designed around improving patient outcomes and optimizing our ability to serve our patients. This facility has been five years in the planning and building and has been informed by decades of experience. We calculated the space we need and designed it to support the way we work as a team. For example, we designed the operating rooms and the laboratory so that they don't get in the way of each other, but so that we can also work together through pass-through windows. This feature, which doesn't exist at hospitals, is absolutely essential because it will minimize the time that an embryo is outside of the incubator down to around thirty seconds. On top of that, everyone in the facility - from the surgeons to anesthesiologist to nurses to administrative staff - is dedicated to fertility medicine. We all work together every day and operate as a cohesive team.

EdUp: For people considering fertility treatment, what's the most important thing you want them to know?

GK: For any woman who is interested in building a family at some point in her life, I would say the following: consider a family as early as possible to ensure that your eggs are healthy. And if that's not possible now, I'd recommend that they consider freezing their eggs at an earlier age. We've now reached a point with our technology where frozen eggs have the same success rate as fresh eggs, so the benefit of taking action early on and preserving this option is tremendous. Along with advances in technology, which have taken more than twenty years to perfect, the cost of this procedure has also come down considerably, so it is often much more affordable than many women realize.

JK: I think it's important that people see the fertility process as a journey. It can sometimes take time to diagnose and treat an infertility problem, which can be quite frustrating. However, if they are committed to the process, we will eventually know what the cause of their infertility is. This is very important, because understanding what the problem is and why you have to undergo fertility treatment helps people find the strength and patience to go through the process. I spend a lot of time with my patients helping them to understand this because I think it's so important.  

EdUp: What is the biggest misconception that women who are looking to conceive have about the fertility treatment process?

GK: Many women believe that no matter what their age, they can get pregnant, but this isn't true. It is all about the quality of eggs a woman produces, and this quality naturally decreases with age. Again, that's why I recommend, to any woman who wants to have children at some point in her life but who isn't ready yet to freeze her eggs when she is younger to preserve this option.

JK: Many people believe that IVF is a year-long process. I've had some patients go through the whole process in months and others who take a slower approach. So much depends on the individual. Another misconception is that IVF is cost-prohibitive. The cost has come down significantly, even from ten years ago, and the fact is that a lot of insurance companies will now cover a significant portion of the cost, so it's good to investigate what your benefits are before concluding that it's beyond your financial reach. #

I recently had the pleasure of observing a STEAM program for Dwight Global Online School students at Dwight School in New York. I've followed Dwight, a leader in global education, for many years because the school is always innovating, so I was excited to see first-hand what was in store for students of Dwight's campus in the cloud.

Dwight Global extends Dwight's long legacy of "igniting the spark of genius in every child" and personalized learning without limitations, thanks to the latest technology. It combines real-time online video conferencing seminars, Oxford-style tutorials, and a college-style schedule to provide students in grades 7-12 with the intimacy of an independent school coupled with the freedom to pursue their passions ("sparks of genius"). Customizing the educational path for each student is the hallmark of a Dwight education on the ground and now in the cloud.

Dwight Global students, who live around the world, include competitive athletes, ballet dancers, working actors and actresses, and entrepreneurs, who are pursuing their dreams without sacrificing top-notch academics. They can attend classes from wherever they live or train, and have the flexibility needed to accommodate their busy competition and performance schedules. They can also participate in on-campus programs and attend classes at any Dwight School in its global network - in New York, London, Seoul, Shanghai, and Dubai - the choice is theirs. 

I met some of these talented students when they gathered on Dwight's Upper West Side campus for their annual STEAM Weekend, focusing on forensic science, design, and immigration this year. The program, I learned, is just one of several throughout the school year that bring online students together in the real world, distinguishing Dwight Global from other online programs. Some of the students I spoke with had chosen Dwight because it offered more in terms of academics, flexibility, and support than other schools. Through my own observations, I discovered that Dwight Global also offered more in terms of community. 

As students dove into the forensics portion of the weekend, I enjoyed following along. They were challenged with solving a fictional mystery, Sherlock-Holmes style, using the knowledge they had just gained in the classroom and lab. "We are learning to think critically and to use skills that involve both chemistry and psychology," reported one student, referring to conducting "witness" interviews and psychological analyses, examining fingerprints, and forensic testing of "evidence." 

This was an imaginative and creative way to learn and immediately apply new knowledge - and for students to connect with each other and their teachers. As the afternoon came to an end and I headed home, the students were getting ready to spend more time together over dinner and a Broadway show. I was ready to curl up with a classic Sherlock Holmes mystery! #

For more information, please visit www.dwight.global.

By Andrea Silvestri

At Purnell, we specialize in creating a safe, rigorous learning environment to ensure the success of students who think differently. We are a day and boarding college preparatory school for girls with learning differences. Our students' learning challenges include ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyslexia, executive functioning issues, and expressive-receptive language disorder. As a Purnell faculty member, I work alongside my colleagues to design and implement curriculum that appeals to our unique student population. Our goal is to create a community that allows each student to discover her potential and strengths both in and outside of the classroom. I strive to achieve this goal through classes that appeal to my students' individual learning styles. My personal strengths as a science teacher are rooted in environmental, place-based, and experiential education. I work to create curricula that draws from my personal strengths as an educator while catering to my students' unique interests and needs. Most recently, I implemented this strategy while designing a Watershed Management course for Purnell. 

Watershed Management is a half-year elective course during which students learn what a watershed is, how they are affected by human activities, and what can be done to preserve them. The course curriculum uses several strategies to appeal to Purnell's students. The class participates in workshops at a nature preserve in coordination with a local non-profit group. The students use online tools to study the pollution status of the streams around their homes and school. They become familiar with the local flora and fauna. The class engages learners through kinesthetic, hands-on activities. Labs at local streams and ponds allow students to see and apply the concepts they learn in the classroom. Students collect macroinvertebrates, measure pH, oxygen levels, and waterflow at several sites to determine water quality. During the water use unit, the students apply the content of the course to their daily lives. They analyze their water usage while performing daily tasks that include household and consumer choices. They compare and contrast their water use to that of other people around the world and critically analyze how they can lessen their impact on the environment. Watershed Management is an experiential learning course that is highly effective because students learn through hands-on activities. Moreover, all lessons are differentiated. Each lesson can be molded and scaffolded to fit individual students' learning needs. In fact, every class at Purnell is designed and differentiated to meet the needs of our diverse group of learners.

Engaging classes are what make Purnell unique. Our student-centered model utilizes small class sizes and opportunities for one-to-one tutoring and support. Every day, teachers hold office hours and learning specialists provide support in our Learning and Enrichment Center. Purnell values community, and our faculty members advise students individually, facilitate student activity clubs, serve as dorm parents, and coach our athletic activities. We want our students to succeed both in and outside of class. Here, we enable each girl to be herself to explore her passions, discover her strengths, and find the confidence to succeed in the world beyond Purnell. #

Andrea Silvestri is a STEM faculty member at the Purnell School.



By Jason D. Kofinas MD, MSc, FACOG

Fertility Surgery is a group of procedures aimed at removing female and male barriers to natural conception. In an age where In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has become common and very widely used, it is easy to forget the essential role that fertility surgery can play in the ability of a couple to achieve a pregnancy. There is a big difference between non-surgical fertility treatment options and actual fertility surgery. The former--which you might also hear called "non-surgical" or simply "medical" fertility treatment--can include a wide variety of options that you choose with the guidance of your doctor, and may include ovarian stimulation medications, intrauterine insemination (IUI), or cycle monitoring and stimulation.

Fertility surgery, on the other hand, is more likely to treat more serious conditions that may prevent you from getting or staying pregnant. Some of these conditions for example include uterine fibroids, adhesions, and endometriosis. For men, repair of dilated veins in the scrotum and reversal of vasectomies can overcome anatomic barriers to male fertility. A Human Reproduction article published in 2001 showed that fibroids located in the wall of the uterine body halved the rates of successful pregnancy in assisted conception cycles.Besides decreasing the ability of couples to achieve pregnancy, fibroids are associated with miscarriage and early loss of an otherwise viable pregnancy.

Endometriosis is another reproductive condition that has profound effects on a woman's fertility and reproductive life span. Endometriosis is a condition that can cause severe pain with menses, pain with intercourse and irregular vaginal bleeding. The mechanism of pain is most likely due to significant inflammation in the uterine pelvis leading to the release of substances that can cause severe pain. The presence of endometriosis in some women versus others is a mystery although an anatomic as well as an immunologic based theory of disease is gaining significant traction. The biggest concern we fertility doctors have is how to identify those women who have endometriosis and how to best preserve their fertility and/or assist them in reproducing. A study published in Fertility and Sterility in the summer of 2018 showed that women with stage 3 or 4 endometriosis (severe) defined by the presence of an endometrioma (ovarian cyst) have a significantly higher and rapid reduction in ovarian reserve.This leads to impairment of reproductive potential at a much younger age than a healthy control population.  Endometriosis is a progressively destructive condition and can be treated effectively with fertility surgical intervention. This should restore natural fertility and decrease the progressive decline in reproductive potential.

When used appropriately, fertility surgery can be a safe and effective restoration of a couple's fertile potential. It can completely eliminate the need for IVF which is an expensive and difficult treatment that for the conditions listed above has significantly lower success rates. Proper diagnosis and treatment of a couple leads to better treatment outcomes and fertility surgery continues to play a large role. #

Dr. Jason D. Kofinas is the Director of IVF and Research at Kofinas Fertility Group.



  1. Hart R, Khalaf Y, Yeong CT, Seed P, Taylor A, Braude P. A prospective controlled study of the effect of intramural uterine fibroids on the outcome of assisted conception. Human Reproduction, Volume 16, Issue 11, 1 November 2001, Pages 2411-2417
  2. Kasapoglu I, Ata B, Uyaniklar O, Seyhan A, Orhan A, Oguz SY, Uncu G. Endometrioma-related reduction in ovarian reserve (ERROR): a prospective longitudinal study.  Fertility and Sterility, Volume 110, Issue 1, 1 July 2018, Pages 122-127.

Champions of Compassion and Peace


By Scott T. Nashimoto
I have a 16-month-old daughter. Her ancestors come from all over the world -- she's Asian, Caucasian, Native Hawaiian. She's beautiful and she's starting to show signs that she's strong-willed, caring, persevering, artistic, and much more. And I'm terrified for her because I'm not sure our society is ready to fully accept her and help her to thrive. She'll someday be a young woman of color in a society that doesn't fully respect young women of color. There's a good chance that she'll be paid less than her counterparts, that she'll be a victim of some form of violence, that she'll be bullied, that her home of Hawai`i will be ravaged by climate change or that she'll be priced out by the wealthy, that her culture will fade. I could go on and on. My wife and I have brainstormed how we can give her the utmost freedom to pursue her own interests and passions while still feeling safe and while still developing into a young woman who possesses our two non-negotiable qualities -- to be resilient and kind. And I'm terrified for ourselves because I'm not confident that we have the skills to do so. I'm able to work on both of these fears through my work with Ceeds of Peace. Ceeds of Peace is a Hawai`i-based organization founded by Dr. Kerrie Urosevich and Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng. Over the past five years, Ceeds of Peace has reached over 7,000 community members, equipping them with the skills and inspiration to raise a generation of leaders who will create peaceful, just, and sustainable communities. Our founders define sustainable communities as communities that come together to protect their most vulnerable members, while designing and adapting socioeconomic systems to reflect the unique needs of their people and land. We offer a number of peacebuilding and action planning workshops and presentations for teachers, families, community groups, and youth. We help participants to plant and nurture essential leadership skills, including critical thinking, courage, communication, compassion, conflict resolution, commitment, collaboration, and connection. Hence our name, Ceeds of Peace. We focus on proactive peacebuilding efforts that address underlying causes and risk factors -- for example, efforts that raise compassionate children and prevent bullying rather than efforts that intervene and punish bullies. Some confuse us as a structured social emotional learning curriculum or a cure-all elixir to address bullying or violence. We are not, and this cure-all elixir doesn't exist. Our goal is to bring out the knowledgeable expert and the courageous leader in each of our participants. Our participants leave us more confident to create and implement action plans that work best for their unique selves (peace within), their own families and friends (peace with others), and their own communities (peace in community). This is the approach it'll take to build a community that fully accepts my daughter and other youth and helps them to thrive. At the same time, this is the approach it'll take to empower my wife and I, as well as other adults across the globe, to raise resilient and kind young peacebuilding leaders. #

Scott T. Nashimoto is the Executive Director of Ceeds of Peace. For more information, please visit CeedsOfPeace.org.

By Gillian Granoff

Twelve-year old Adi Altshuler was looking for a way to make a difference in the world when she began volunteering at the age of 12 at ILAN, an Israeli NGO for children with physical disabilities. She became a personal tutor to Kobi Kfir, a three-year-old child with cerebral palsy.

Kfir's mother, Claudia, had watched her son struggle with social isolation as he was unable to speak. He was longing to connect with the outside world. The moment Adi met Kfir, their connection was instantaneous. They quickly learned to understand each other, and the acceptance and love between them transformed both of their lives. Kfir's confidence soared.

Claudia and Adi were so inspired by Kfir's change that they aspired to replicate the experience for others.

In 2002, Adi joined LEAD, a leadership development program. With Claudia and LEAD's support, the amutah (nonprofit in the Hebrew language) Krembo Wings was born. Named after the popular winter Israeli version of the Moon Pie and Mallomar, Krembo Wings is the country's first inclusive youth movement that connects children with and without special needs, in an environment free of fear, stigma, and judgment.

Krembo Wings began humbly with four members in Hod Hasharon, Israel. Nowadays, the organization has dozens of branches and serves thousands of people ages 7-22 from all cultural, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds throughout Israel.

This growth is attributed to the Solomonic leadership of Krembo's management team past and present. Following Adi's departure in 2009, Ofira Roten became CEO. Talia Bejerano, before becoming CEO in 2016, developed and helped implement an intensive counselor training program as well as modernized procedures that allowed Krembo Wings to expand the number of communities it serves. Krembo's Senior VP, Merav Boaz, has spearheaded the aumtah's expansion by working closely with a multitude of municipalities to transform not just the minds and hearts of its members but to change public perception of disability in each community.

Entrusting its members with the responsibility for leading the activities is a critical component of their leadership training. Each branch has a youth manager who oversees activities, matching two members with one with special needs youth. Together they participate in arts projects, musical activities, and educational games, all centered around a theme selected by members of the Krembo staff.

In intensive trainings, members learn to manage challenges of working with the special needs population, in particular how to create activities that will engage them and their strengths. Krembo's members face a range of cognitive impairments including Autism or Asperger's, severe mental and sensory disorders, and physical impairments like cerebral palsy.

For participants the experience has been life changing. Kiara moved to Israel from Brooklyn with her family. "Krembo showed me ... no matter where you are from, or what your gender, background, or (dis)ability is, you can always accept and treat them equally. You shouldn't fear them."

Gali, a 7th grader, says: "The experiences at Krembo have helped (my) self-esteem and taught me to care for others. I have learned to understand and be more accepting of (people with) disabilities."

In a world where special needs are segregated from mainstream communities, Krembo gives people the space to work, play, sing, and dance in seamless interactions. For people with disabilities, the acceptance receives from the Krembo community gives them confidence and normalizes their differences.

Shirelle, 17, is in her 3rd year at Krembo. "We are not here to take care of the special needs kids. We help them, have fun with them, and work with them. The first time I was here, I realized that I had made the greatest decision of my life."

The success of Krembo Wings gained the recognition of UNESCO which, in 2018, honored the organization as a special advisor to the United Nations in matters of disabilities. Its success "as a world leader in the integration of children and youth with and without disabilities is in empowering social activities" regardless of differences in the communities it serves. It doesn't matter if the community is secular or religious; rich or poor; black or white; Druze, Muslim, Christian, Bedouin, or Jewish. Acceptance and inclusion as well as partnership, not patronage, are the guiding principles.

Despite Kfir's passing, his impact lives on. "Kfir was my greatest teacher," remarked Claudia, who continues to sit on Krembo's board of directors. "He taught me to love and accept myself and go beyond my dreams."

Krembo Wings is relentless in its commitment to fulfill Adi and Kfir's dream to create a world that sees only the humanity each person, able-bodied or severely disabled, brings to the world, one in which children of any background or ability can collaborate to fulfill their hopes and dreams. #

Best Practices Based on Brain Science

By Rebecca Mannis, Ph.D.

What makes for best practice in education?  The answer to this question can differ depending on who you ask and whether that person's lens is more 'wide-angle' lens or specialized. Best practice vision can change when considering classroom needs or an individual student. The Educational Opportunity Association (EOA) best practices directory for 2018 offers methods and materials that are 'promising, validated and exemplary.' Fluency, the ability to efficiently access information and skills, impacts learning at various ages and stages and serves as a case study in considering K-12 best practices. 

Recent brain research provides insights about learning as a life-long process. Learning happens against the backdrop of two brain processes. Children's brains grow in the number and size of synapses, or brain cell connections. At the same time, a pruning process nibbles away at those brain cells to create stronger, more efficient pathways. University of Washington researchers reported structural changes in the white matter of school-aged children after eight weeks of intensive reading instruction. 

These neuroscience findings align with our understanding skills development in grade school. Fluency was one of the skills which particular gains and increased brain development. Professor Jeanne Chall discussed these skills in her classic Stages of Reading Development, which just marked its thirty-fifth anniversary of publication. She wrote that systematic, phonics-based instruction fosters accurate and fluent reading, the building blocks for reading comprehension and thinking critically about text. Dr. Chall shaped 1970s and1980s best practices, demonstrating that that 'learning to read' in the early grades enables students to effectively and confidently 'read to learn' new subject matter in middle and upper school. This helps youngsters process and access information for use in new contexts. Karyn Slutsky, Assistant Director of Queens Paidea School notes, 'Fluency of component skills is the basis of a firm foundation of any competency, whereas a shaky foundation leads to instability, insecurity, and anxiety.' 

Fluency is relevant to best practices discussion about 'personalized learning,' the trend toward computer-based delivery of instruction. While technology can play a role in practicing facts, the way that we incorporate digital information differs from how we process print content. UCLA Professor Dr. Maryann Wolf's Reader Come Home reports that college students who read digital content were less able to draw conclusions and connections from digital content than peers who read the same texts in print form. Although the research 'is in' about fluency shaping later learning, popular press decries the lack of consistent reading instruction in public and private schools. 

We can all get on board to address this, with an eye toward the culture of each school and the needs of our diverse students. The EOA notes that best practices can be modified to particular programs, the children in them, and the content being taught. Dyann Kaufman, learning specialist at The Avenues School notes that Avenues teaches fluency in the lower grades by systematically introducing skills in different formats, with individual or group work that brings in various senses. In grades 3-5, Avenues reinforces fluency with selected independent practice and small group 'buddy reading' activities. Other schools pride themselves on high levels of customization per individual learning style and goals rather than adhering to one methodology or one tech tool. To Dr. Manju Banerjee of Landmark College, we start by engaging students to be self-determined and have agency over whichever strategy will work best for them. Skill development is personalized and students feel supported in their learning approach."

We parents and professionals can help our children develop the fluency skills they need to learn and grow. This happens with committed, well-trained teachers who implement systematic techniques. These teachers can be supported to monitor children's growth in varied, consistent ways and to adapt instruction to those findings. Children's fluency grows with consistent independent and guided practice and when students are encouraged to develop insights about using skills across their coursework. Best practices in fluency provide our children the techniques and tools to learn efficiently and effectively as they progress through formal education to ultimately explore their passions beyond the classroom. It enables them to then be well-informed and curious members of society. Let's use what we know about brain science and best practices in learning the basics to help our children become digital citizens and citizens of the world who shape our society for good. #

Dr. Rebecca Mannis is a graduate of Harvard and can be reached at her private practice, rebecca@ivy-prep.com

By Jan Aaron

"My city lies between two rivers -- on a small island. My city is tall and jagged -- with gold + slated towers. My city is cut + re-cut + slashed by hard car-filled streets.

My city chokes on its breath, and sparkles with its false lights -- and sleeps restlessly at night. My city is a lone man walking at night down an empty street watching his shadow grow longer as he passes the last lamp post, seeking no comfort in the blank dark windows, and hearing his footsteps echo against the building + fade away." 

Thus Jerome Robbins, noted dance-choreographer describes New York in "Voice of My City", an extraordinary exhibit at the Performing Arts library, honoring this extraordinary human being. His story is best enjoyed by leisurely strolling and savoring the posters and videos (my favorite: Robbins instructing the young Mikhial Baryshnikov leaping in red tights).

Briefly: Born Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz in New York on October 11, 1918 into a family of Jewish immigrants and a world recovering from the devastation of World War 1, the Rabinowitz family arrived with cash but worked their way to stability. His parents Harry and Lena worked in a Manhattan deli, moving with their two small children across the Hudson to manage a corset factory.

Encouraged by his mother, young Jerry followed in his older sister's footsteps, investigating a range of artistic activities, from music to drawing to dance. By the end of high school, he sensed [that] more choices lay across the Hudson River. Indeed, by the time Jerry died at home on July 29, 1998, he and his enduring accomplishments had been recognized with a National Medal of the Arts in 1988. New York City Ballet staged a Robbins' festival in 1990.

He ferried to New York to attend college for a year (he studied chemistry at NYU), but finding a job was a dim possibility during the Great Depression, and he immersed himself in the Arts. He enrolled at Gluck Sandor's Dance Center, where Sandor and his wife, Felicia Sorel, introduced him to modern dance, character acting, and dramatics. Here he also changed his name to Jerome Robbins, performed on Broadway, choreographed and directed at a Poconos summer camp, and danced with Ballet Theater (now the American Ballet Theater) as well as in roles choreographed by Agnes de Mille, Michel Fokine and Anthony Tudor -- and looked for opportunities to choreograph. Robbins was fascinated by a common sight of the early 1940s sailors on leave in the city, a common site in the midst of war. Finding just the right collaborator in the conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein, Robbins was also searching for his place in the music world by defining American style. Their collaboration? Fancy Free debuted April 18, 1944 and prompted over 20 curtain calls. (Fancy Free's movie version -- my introduction to Robbins --starred Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Vera Ellen.)

Now famous, he was hired as Associate Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet, choreographing such obras maestras as "Age of Anxiety," (1950) and "Afternoon of a Faun" (1953) and hit musicals such as "The King and I" (1951) and "Peter Pan" (1954). Strolling the exhibit is the most satisfying way to experience it. Galleries are filled with marvelous visuals projecting his dancers performing.

We learn and see evidence of his sketching, photography skills, and journal writing. The exhibit is thoroughly engaging for its minutia. But I'm willing to bet that most compelling to visitors will be one of his masterworks, "West Side Story." Choreographer and director Robbins, composer Leonard Bernstein, and playwright Arthur Laurents first conceived a contemporary version of Romeo and Juliet as a conflict between Jews and Catholics at a New York street festival on the Lower East Side as their parents might have experienced it. But when they looked at their New York of the 1950s, their conflict between New York gangs became "West Side Story." See excerpt in the exhibit.

Consider my observations your appetizer to a Robbins banquet at the museum. Stroll to experience film clips of dancers interpreting Robbins choreography, and Robbins instructing dancers. See posters from his Broadway shows, and other memorabilia.

And there's more! 

Another exhibit salutes City Center with "The Peoples Theater", a major dance showcase for 75 years. Savor a trove of memorabilia and especially fine photographs of Melissa Hayden and other beautiful ballerinas and handsome male dancers like Herman Conejo. Dancer Twyla Tharp created her own distinct style. Another City Center innovation "Encores" is dedicated to the revival of beloved long-ago musicals. Vitrines outside the main exhibits are a trove of odd and touching memorabilia, and the Al Hirschfeld exhibit upstairs salutes the Center.

Robbins and City Center exhibits have listening stations where visitors can hear Robbins Voice of My City until March 30 and The Peoples Theater until March 2. #

About Me

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