MindPlay and Missouri’s Division of Youth Services

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While Virginia (Ginny) Stephan has taught in public and private schools, her current teaching assignment is working with 13-17 year-old boys as part of the Division of Youth Services (DYS) in Missouri. DYS is the state agency charged with the care and treatment of delinquent youth committed to its custody by Missouri juvenile courts. DYS programs are established to provide mandated services that include assessment, care and treatment, and education of all youth committed to its care. DYS operates treatment programs ranging from non-residential day treatment centers through secure residential treatment facilities and operates an accredited school program where Stephan teaches.

The boys who are part of her program have all been committed to the facility for anywhere between 4 and 6 months. The eclectic mix of students that Stephan teaches have functional reading levels that range from 2nd grade to college level. The students attend classes year-round at the facility, moving between curriculum standards like math, reading, science, and social studies into life skills such as study habits, finance, and career education. Students taking reading or study skills are quickly introduced to MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach (MVRC).

“The youth enter the facility and the program all dealing with different hesitations and levels of anxiety, which can affect the first test they take on MVRC. That first test may not show actual abilities because there is so much going on for our new students, but it is a start. From the assessment in MVRC, I build either an IEP or a general educational plan for each student. Our goal is to have them reading at grade level or, as a stretch goal, grade level plus one. We do a cognitive score test when our students arrive, so I have a good idea of what they should be able to accomplish.”

“We’ve seen the most success in MVRC with our lower ability students, as they are the ones who are assigned the most time to the program. Because of our setting, it is almost impossible for me to follow MindPlay’s guidelines of half an hour a day, five days a week. I certainly understand how that would be optimal, but I am delighted to say that we’ve seen lots of success while operating under a less than ideal scenario.”

“I’ve seen several students move from reading at a first grade level to a seventh grade level during their time here. I’ve also seen students go from a 9th to a 12th grade level. Our goal is to mainstream students back into their regular school or to have them ready to be successful with the High School Equivalency Test, and MindPlay is helping us make this happen for them.”

“The students place a lot of value in the program certificates and love the assessments, often asking me to force an assessment so they can track their progress. The reporting, and what it represents, is important to my students. When they are close to release, many will ask me for copies of their MVRC reports. They take these back to their regular schools and use the reports to make their case to be readmitted. They know the MVRC reports showcase their efforts, accomplishments, and their progress. I’ve had several students who’ve met their goals and request to continue on the program. Once they’ve started chasing a higher reading level, they want to continue and many work the program until they are at a 12th grade level.”

“When students first encounter MVRC, generally I find they are happy to have the opportunity to address their reading challenges. Many know they aren’t reading as well as they should and are glad to have a way to address this skill gap. Early on, when they are working through their lowest levels of instruction, they may get a little frustrated, but I explain that the program has lessons that will take them up through 12th grade. It helps them get a perspective on how the program can and will help them.”

“I really love my current teaching situation. My students are treated as students, thanks to the policies in DYS. We work very hard to give them the skills to go out make changes in their lives: when they are released they are confident in their abilities and in themselves. I think our program plants seeds. Some of these seeds might not come to fruition for years, but the seed and its potential, are there long after spending time in our program.”

“Unlike other state’s programs, our program is group oriented and treatment oriented with a constant focus that we are dealing with children. We do very well with the students we work with. Do all of them leave us and go off to make only goods choices? No. Sadly some do continue to make bad choices, but we do have success stories. I believe that what we do gives our students the opportunity to be all they may choose to be. Bad choices at age 13 shouldn’t condemn a child.”

“MVRC is an important tool for me and my students. I truly love it because of all the success we’ve seen. My students gain confidence in their education and in themselves; you can see it in their faces. I really love using the program with them.”

Ohio School Takes MVRC from Summer School Pilot to Integral Solution

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Ohio’s Windham Exempted Village Schools’ elementary school, Katharine Thomas, piloted MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach (MVRC) last summer during its two-week reading camp. During camp, students worked at various stations set up throughout the school in 30-minute blocks. Teachers were available to provide direction and answer questions during the sessions, and each of the 60 participating students worked in MVRC each day. Title I teacher for the school, Laura (Louie) Stanley, was excited with the results she could see from this very brief time in MVRC.

“Just being able to go into the reports and have an accurate picture of where each child was at the beginning of the session was very helpful. MVRC gave me a much-needed baseline for each student. Seeing the students’ abilities start to trend up in just two weeks was really just an added bonus,” said Stanley.

Post-pilot, the school was able to purchase six seats, meaning that all of the data that accrued over the summer program stayed available to Stanley and the other instructors. This information helped them to track their ‘in need’ students into the new school year.

Last year the school began using Title I funding to reduce class size. Each grade level at Katherine Thomas has two home rooms supported by four reading instructors. Stanley works with students who may be struggling but do not have an IEP. Working with the fourth and fifth grade students in her reading groups, Stanley continued having them spend time with MVRC.

This year, 43 students worked with MVRC. In September, of the 43 learning needs students, there were 2 students reading at grade level, 24 students one grade level below, and 17 students who were reading below their grade level by 2 or more years. By April, the students had made major progress. Today, 11 students are reading at grade level with appropriate fluency and comprehension. There are 19 students reading just one grade level below. The remaining 13 students are making progress and seeing growth.

“My MVRC super user is a fourth grade student who was only recently diagnosed with hearing loss. Once we understood his challenge, it was not surprising that the year began with MVRC showing him reading at kindergarten level, with a fluency rate of fewer than 60 words per minute. Right now, in mid April, he is reading at a second grade level, with a fluency rate of 120 words per minute. I can’t get him off the program. He often skips math exercises so that he can do a full hour on MVRC. He finds the awards and certificates very motivating; however, I believe what he really finds motivating is that finally, almost at the end of fourth grade, he is reading. He has latched on to this successful instruction and just won’t let go and will continue to use MVRC until he is at grade level. For this hearing impaired student, MVRC has opened the door to literacy.”

Only Stanley’s students are getting 30 minutes of MVRC each day, but having worked with the program for almost a full year, she has different ideas for using MVRC in the school.

“Ideally, in my perfect school world, MVRC would be treated as special, like gym, art or music, and all students would have 30 minutes on the program each day. Having worked with the program, I see its value for struggling students as well as for students who are already at grade level, who could work to increase fluency and vocabulary.”

“I would also like to be able to use MVRC to assess students for Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee. I look forward to the state of Ohio getting to know more about MVRC and approving the program for more extensive use in our state.”

While the school hopes to add to the number of licenses available for next year, Stanley said that the best way of coping with limited licenses is to use stations. The program they laid out during their summer school continued to be their best way to implement MVRC, as stations allowed a maximum number of children access to the program.

The school’s second and third grade have a shared iPad program, so Stanley was happy to hear that MVRC for tablets will be ready in time for the 2014-15 school year. “I just think there is such an advantage to that tablet format. Kids get excited just because they are using a tablet, and if they happen to be using the tablet and improving their reading skills, everyone wins.”

When asked about using MVRC as an intervention, Stanley had high praise for MVRC. “Not only does it provide an extremely accurate assessment of the child’s skills, it creates the IEP for that child. If I were doing that, I’d need to test, diagnose, and then source the proper intervention. With MVRC, all that happens for me and it happens with amazing accuracy.”

“MVRC provides me with a real window into my students. Using the reports, I can see each keystroke they make; if spring fever hits and a student answer questions with nonsense, I know about it and can hold them responsible for their time on the program.”

When asked if she thought she’d see the same gains in student reading if she didn’t have MVRC this year, she answered, “I simply wouldn’t know. Without MVRC, I would not have such an accurate understanding of my students’ progress. That’s the power of MVRC. I am very happy with it. I love the data and am super pleased with how MVRC so accurately tailors itself to each individual student.”

Indiana MVRC Implementation: A Win for Third Grade

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Marc Slaton, Ed.D. is the district superintendent of Scott County School District 2 in Scottsburg, Indiana. Dr. Slaton was kind enough to share his district’s experiences with using MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach.

The district has a 50+% free and reduced population and a 20-25% special education population. The district has four elementary schools, all of which are designated as Title I. Each of these schools utilizes MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach, which was deployed per school per Title 1 guidelines. The district also used a license sharing approach so that the number of students using the program each day could be maximized. Remember, each perpetual license of MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach can be used all day long by multiple children; while only one user can be logged into a license, once that child has finished his or her 30minute session, another child can then log in.

The district started using the program for the 2012-2013 school year and purchased more licenses to deploy this current school year. The district and Dr. Slaton worked with Laura Close at Close Education, the MindPlay representative in Indiana.

After one year of using MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach, the district saw an 8% increase in the state mandated, standardized IREAD3 Assessment. This past spring, the third grade students passed the IREAD Assessment with a 94.4% pass rate, up from 86% the prior year. Excited by the results from year one, the district purchased more licenses and rolled the program out further, beyond the boundaries of Title 1 and into the regular classrooms. Slaton said that district teachers and principals have been very responsive to the program. “Initially we utilized MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach in our Title I program so our teachers didn’t have as much of an exposure as we probably should have allowed them. Thus, in our second wave of training, we focused on getting information and details that would also help the classroom teachers to make better use of the data we were getting.”

When asked if the teachers and principals had any issues with the program, he replied “No one can argue with the results on standardized tests. The results speak for themselves.”

Those results included a 100% pass rate for last year’s third grade class, so all those students advanced on to fourth grade “because we utilized MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach. Additionally, every one of those students who didn’t qualify for the state allowed wavers passed the IREAD3 Assessment. We were very pleased.”

“Students are very engaged with the program. And student engagement does lead to increased achievement. Today’s learners love to be ‘plugged in.’ I think the computer delivery of this intervention tool really makes a difference for these 21st century kids.”

Asked if he had last thoughts or ideas he’d like to share with those who may still be only using My Reading Coach, which contains only phonics lessons, Slaton said “I would share our successful student data. I believe in the full implementation of MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach. The results for our students speak volumes about what can be done when the program is implemented with fidelity.”


MRC vs. MVRC: a Teacher’s Perspective

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This article first appeared in our newsletter, Coach’s Playbook. If you’d like to receive our newsletter, send us an email at mail@mindplay.com and we’ll add you to the list!

Laredo ISD and MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach

The results of our first year’s use of MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach are in, and we are very excited at what we are seeing. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Martha Mendoza about her experiences. Mendoza works at Laredo ISD, a Texas district that was an MRC super user. When MVRC was announced, Laredo made the move to the new program.

Mendoza, English/Language Arts Dean and Response to Intervention Coordinator shared her thoughts on the differences between the two programs.

From the Field: MRC vs. MVRC

Reporting: In MVRC you are able to navigate reports and data instantly; our teachers are finding it very quick and easy to pull data as compared to MRC.

The Lessons: The differentiated instruction in MVRC is great. Where occasionally in MRC, students who were having problems would be delivered the same lesson more than once, the extensive levels of differentiated instruction in MVRC mean that students don’t get the same lesson and benefit from a fresh approach to their instruction.

The Set Up: It is so easy to set up classes and get students using the program. MVRC was designed to be very friendly to administrators, teachers, and students.

The Student Experience: Students are enjoying MVRC, finding it livelier than MRC. They appreciate the new visuals built into MVRC.

The Delivery: As MVRC is web-based, we have a great new flexibility for using our licenses. Students can work from anywhere, including home. We can offer MVRC to adults in the community because they don’t need to be in our buildings to take advantage of the instruction. While you could only use MRC where it was installed, MVRC opens up many more opportunities for usage.

The Time Factor: For teachers, the program saves time because the set up and data are so much easier to access. For students, it saves time because we are seeing faster progress to grade level than we did with MRC.

Who Can Benefit: MRC had foundational reading skills covered. MVRC has those same skills, but also covers fluency and vocabulary. MVRC is like getting multiple programs for the price of one and this is a great benefit for students because all can log in and the program will direct them to work on individual instructional gaps. Students who have the foundations down are directed to work on fluency, so not only do weak readers become stronger, but stronger readers will become more fluent thanks to MVRC. The program is entirely tailored to student needs.

The Role of the Teachers: It is difficult for any teacher to be perfect and to be able to address each student’s individual needs. For reading instruction, this becomes even more of a challenge as upper grade teachers are schooled in their subject areas, not in reading instruction. Having MVRC available frees the teacher to focus on his or her own content area, as reading support is handled by the program.

The Benefits: Until I was using the program, I didn’t truly grasp all the extra features available in MVRC. I recommend you try MVRC yourself and experience all the benefits we have experienced at Laredo ISD.

Restorative Justice: Trying to Stop the Pipeline

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In our last blog entry, we touched on the issues facing schools over discipline. Strong, zero-tolerance policies may improve the school environment, but they appear to be putting many students at risk of joining the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

There is data to back up what activists call the “school-to-prison pipeline”: 20% of black boys and 12% of black girls are suspended from school each year in the United States, compared to 6% of white boys and 2% of white girls. 95% of those school suspensions are for non-violent offences like verbally disrupting class. Yet once suspended, students experience academic delays and become twice as likely to drop out, get involved in street violence, (and) then get sucked into the criminal justice system.

KIPP, a charter school program deployed across the country, holds to a ‘no excuses’ code of discipline. Jonathan Chait, in a recent article for The Guardian, maintains that their program is effective because it ‘teaches poor kids “middle class norms.” Sociologist Annette Lareau posits that middle-class and higher income families approach discipline in a very child-centric way. These parents allow their children to explain themselves and their side of the story. Punishment is a negotiation not a straight equation.

Negotiation is hardly the approach used within KIPP’s no excuses policy. Students march through the hallways in military silence. They are required to adapt specific postures during class and must maintain their gaze on the teacher. One school isolated children with behavior issues in a windowless closet that sports padded walls.

Syracuse City School District, looking at its own efforts with zero-tolerance policies that saw students moving to alternative programs in response to discipline issues, found this solution to be lacking. Despite their best efforts, the alternative programs were never as good at somehow keeping the students in their classes with their highly qualified teachers.

There are some innovations going on in other schools that may hold the key to a broader solution for all. One movement that holds promise is “restorative justice” an approach that works with students to get them to speak to each other as well as with trained professionals in order to address issues, like fear, anger, and anxiety, which are often the root causes of discipline issues.

Restorative justice teaches students how to resolve conflict and enforces critical problem-solving skills. These problem-solving skills are essential to functioning as an adult in the world at large, so students who face issues under this program actually receive more education rather than less.

Making Discipline Effective not Merely Punitive

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During the 2012-2013 school year, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) expelled five of every 10,000 schools. Charter schools running in Chicago expelled 61 out of 10,000. Some saw this as proof that charter schools dump problem students, eliminating students that may contribute to less productive classrooms or lower the school’s performance metrics.

Noble Charter Schools, which runs 14 campuses in Chicago, has an extremely stringent code of behavior.

 At Noble, six detentions in a two-week period results in an out-of-school suspension. For every 13 detentions, students must also pay $140 to attend a discipline class.

For the most part, students at CPS-run schools can get expelled only for serious problems like drugs or gun possession. At Noble schools, students can also face expulsion if they rack up 36 detentions in a school year and repeatedly run afoul of the school’s disciplinary code.

The Federal Government is raising questions about the sort of policies that put that many students out of school. In fact there is an initiative going to address what has been called the “school-to-prison pipeline.” This theory posits that a punitive school system that deals with issues by removing students provides a path that take these out–of–school students directly into the justice system. Attorney General Holder and Secretary of Education Duncan are working to “ensure that our educational system is a doorway to opportunity,” and using the Supportive School Discipline Initiative to pave the way.

The goals of the program are very top level, working to build consensus on discipline issues with stakeholders and researching ways to keep students in school while also improving the climate for learning in school. The initiative stresses the need to find evidence-based policies and practices through research and data collection.

But what does such research tell us? In the example of Noble charter schools, what do students think of policies that are punitive for saying ‘bless you’ in response to a sneeze, clothing choices, or even student posture?

The article talks about two students who had the Nobel experience. The first is now a senior who has racked up 100 detentions and over $500 in fines. While he describes himself as a class clown who – given the evidence – had difficulty with rules like speaking respectfully and staying in his seat, he is glad that he dug in (and into his pocket) so that he could graduate from Noble this year.

The other student profiled – the one who got in trouble for saying ‘bless you’ – was pulled from the school by her parents, who disagreed with the zero tolerance policies. After one day in her new high school, the girl begged her parents to let her return to the Noble campus: the strict discipline made her feel much safer.

That said, the initiative to keep students in schools despite discipline issues continues to roll. Schools in Kennewick, WA, are instituting a policy that provides more flexibility in response, allowing schools to punish students who instigate issues differently from the students who are merely trying to defend themselves. Madison, WI, is moving toward discipline policies that try to modify behavior rather than use expulsion and suspension. A fear that minority students are most often those who are dealt discipline that pulls them out of school has lead to the more lenient policy.

In our next blog, we’ll look at what modes of discipline show promise that keeps kids in school and also keeps them safe.

Leadership: Is it on Your Application?

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A New York high school senior has had some exciting trips to the mailbox recently. Kwasi Enin was accepted by each of the eight Ivy League schools to which he had applied.

What were his qualifications? He scored in the 98th percentile on the SAT (2250 of 2400 total points) and he’s ranked 11th in his class. Beyond that, his curriculum vita is full of extra curricular activities. He participates in chamber orchestra, playing three instruments. He sings with an a cappella group. He has had leads in school plays since 9th grade. He is part of the track and field team, throwing shot put and discus. On top of all of that, he participates in student government.

Rachel Rubin, the founder of Spark Admissions in Massachusetts, who also previously served on admissions committees at selective universities, commented, “Standardized test scores and good grades will get a student in the door to have their application read but, it’s their extracurricular activities, leadership experience, exceptional talents, recommendation letters and personal essays that will move a student from a pile of ‘maybes’ to a pile of ‘accepted.’”

I was struck by the ‘leadership experience’ that Rubin focused on. Leadership appears consistently as a talent that colleges both want to see included in applications and see as a talent they expect to foster.

In an Atlantic article looking at the concept of leadership, Emmi Haward, a director of college counseling, shared her perspective on leadership. “Not only does leadership distinguish a student in a competitive applicant pool from other students ([compare] a student body president to someone who has spent four years just going home and doing their homework) but also serves to foreshadow the impact the student could make on the college/university campus, and the potential impact they could make once they graduate.” 

The Atlantic article ties college’s quest to recruit and train leaders to a financial issue. The author, Tara Burton, points out the benefits of matriculating leaders. Leaders, those with impressive titles, long contact lists, and commensurate salaries, can be very beneficial alumni. Not only can leaders assist their alma mater financially, but they can also be assets in marketing the school.

This focus on leadership, Burton posits, is uniquely American. She is an alumni of Oxford, where the ability to work independently is prioritized over the ability to provide leadership. For Oxford, and many non-American institutes of higher learning, Enin is unlikely to have also needed his stint in student government to secure admission.

I feel for college admissions staff. Applications roll in and are a combination of raw numbers and impassioned words, for those colleges still requiring essays as part of the application process. When Ivy Leagues have acceptance rates of 5%, that’s lots of applications that don’t quite make the cut: admissions must be delighted when they find a box that can’t be checked and helps move an application to the ‘no thanks’ pile. That said, I question the value put on leadership. Are those who can successfully collaborate of any less value? 

In Finland, Equality Equals Success

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We’ve already shared several articles about Finland’s successful educational program through our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. What Finland has done is pretty extraordinary: they decided their education system was broken and they fixed it. While the results speak for themselves, I believe the more we can learn about what they’ve done and how they continue to do it, the better off we all are.

Christine Gross-Loh of The Atlantic interviewed Krista Kiuru, the country’s minister of education. The full article can be read on The Atlantic’s site, and I recommend you take a few minutes and read it. If you are pressed for time, here are the major points that jumped off the page for me.

With students starting school at age 7, attending 300 fewer hours per year during elementary school, and with those same children enjoying more recess and a lighter homework load than United States’ children, expectations may be that these students would have been less successful. That expectation would be wrong.

If you think that the success is based on generations of educational reform that dates back to the middle ages, you’d be wrong. In the 1960’s, Finland’s results were so-so, and today’s successful system has been created from scratch since then.

If you think the guiding principal of their new educational philosophy was success, achievement, or academics, again, you’d be wrong. The basis for the reform is and has been equity. As Gross-Loh aptly puts it “The Finnish paradox is that by being focused on the bigger picture for all, Finland has succeeded at fostering the individual potential of most every child.”

The Finnish school system was built to develop everyone’s potential because in Finland, a country that is not rich in oil, minerals, or other natural resources, they realized that human capital can be a very valuable resource.  To cultivate these resources, students are not confronted with math 8 hours a day, but are instead given a very broad education, which includes far more vocational classes than can be found here in the United States. Academics, the Finns believe, are not all that children need. Schools should be a place where students learn “the meaning of life.”

Teachers in Finland are highly qualified (masters degrees are required) and highly autonomous. New teachers are supported in the classroom. The article discusses a new teacher who has seven other adults in the class with her, who can later discuss the lesson and presentation, providing the observation and constructive discussion that helps mold a new teacher into a master teacher in a most expeditious manner.

Since making the decision that equity would guide education in Finland, testing of adults who participated in this new approach to education placed at or near the top in all measured skills (literacy, numeracy, and problem solving) as compared to adults from 24 other countries. The turnaround to success is possible and starts with a new way of looking at students. 

To Take or Not To Take: Standardized Tests

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In Illinois, students take the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). The test “measures the achievement of students in reading and mathematics in grades three through eight and science in grade four and seven.” The test is a multiday exam and is given to measure progress against the No Child Left Behind benchmarks. This year the state decided to use an additional test to evaluate student promotions and eligibilities.

Some parents have decided to boycott the ISAT, for while the results of the test may be important to for schools’ need to show Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), it means nothing to the students on an individual level.

Parents in the city of Chicago have organized, and so far more than 70 parents have tried to give their children permission to opt out of the test, but notes from home aren’t working. Schools say they need to test all children present and are putting the tests in front of all students, no matter what parents have said. This effectively sticks children in the rather uncomfortable middle.

Even if a child is allowed to sit out the test, it isn’t as if he or she will be receiving instruction during test days. Instead of filling the day filling test sheets, the student is likely to have a study hall or library time.

With all the focus on extended school days and providing more time for instruction, it does seem ludicrous to have days used up for a test with such limited application. Certainly there could be a single standardized test that would answer the needs of assessing AYP as well as providing necessary information about individual student performance.

Both the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) are supporting a ban of the ISAT. The president of AFT Randi Weingarten, was quoted in the Chicago Tribune, as saying “The test is being administered only to fulfill a No Child Left Behind requirement, while more than half of the states have sought waivers from such requirements. The test won’t inform instruction or assess student or teacher performance. It is not relevant to the current curriculum. It’s a meaningless hoop to jump through that benefits no one. So, why subject kids to it?”

Parents in the suburbs have not yet mobilized on this issue, but given the rumblings about common core testing, you can be sure this won’t be the last objection to standardized testing heard in Illinois or elsewhere in the nation.

On a side note, Chicago Public School (CPS) children’s literacy caused Chicago mayor Emanuel to take a dive. CPS students increased their total books read year over year and the increase won the students a bet that saw the loser, Emanuel, paying off by taking the Polar Plunge into a mostly frozen Lake Michigan the last weekend in February.  Seriously, they had to scoop ice out of the plunge area so people could get into the water. Water temperature was 32 degrees and the air temperature was much lower.  The reason for the Plunge is much warmer: it is a fundraiser for Special Olympics. 

Beyond Helicopter

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We’ve got lots of categories for identifying the deeply involved parent. Helicopters, umbilicals, and tigers, oh my. At the helm of the latest manifestation of this trend – as yet unnamed, though I’d suggest co-pilot parenting – is a mom with a new book who took a unique approach to her child’s approaching SAT.

Debbie Stier, said mom and author of “The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT” was concerned about her son. Her son was a ‘B’ student, as she had been, but she felt that the world he was growing up in provided less opportunity for middle of the road students than the career options that were available to her.

His better than average academic record, coupled with little by way of extracurricular activities to tout, would not get him into a college that would hand him a key to his future.  Nor was it likely to get him into one of those schools while also receiving sufficient financial support. At least that was her concern. 

Seeking a solution, she decided that if he got a really amazing score on the SAT, it would offset his academic record enough that good schools with tuition packages would come calling. The problem with this idea was that her son had little interest in studying for the SAT, so she decided she would study to take it again herself, modeling the behavior she wanted him to demonstrate.

From this initial premise, this plan became a personal challenge for Stier to study herself with the expectation of a perfect score on the SAT. In this effort, she took the test seven times. Her media attention has sent other adults back to school, at least to those schools that help prep for the SAT. The Atlantic’s Elizabeth Kolbert’s adventures, advised by Stier, can be read here.

Stier’s efforts, both with her own test prep and with her son’s, resulted in no small amount of family tension. The aftermath of a family session of math tutoring resulted in both children moving in with their father for a time. Stier’s seven attempts at the SAT saw her scoring peak in the middle of her testing efforts: she wasn’t able to reach a perfect score, nor was she able to maintain her highest score in subsequent testing.

Reading about Stier, it appears that her plan for her son became much more about herself.  She wasn’t helicoptering around him, she was sitting next to him in the helicopter, trying to drive it (and him).  I commend her efforts to support her son, but think that the term ‘overboard’ doesn’t really express her actions. While I don’t know how things worked out for her son, or if these expansive efforts to prep for the SAT resulted in a free ride to Miracles R Us University, there is the hope that Stier’s book and media attention will provide a financial cushion for the whole family.