Do boys and girls perform better in school when separated by gender?

The teachers at Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy sat in stunned silence on their first day back from summer break. It was the fall of 2011, and principal John Haley had just announced that the state had given their school a “D” grade.

A year earlier, Haley and his team had taken over the failing middle school in Tampa, Florida, and turned it into an all boys magnet school, hoping a new culture of higher expectations and mutual respect among young men would lift the school’s performance.

After one year, that plan was in doubt.

That “D” grade was a gut check, but it wasn’t a pink slip. Changing a school’s culture takes time, Haley reassured his teachers. And he was right. The next year the school earned a “B,” and each of the past two years the school earned an “A” grade.

Franklin is part of a radical experiment that could reshape how we think about education. Its success hinges on a simple, albeit controversial, premise: boys and girls do better academically when separated by gender, and this is especially true among students who are struggling.

Critics, including many social scientists, decry the notion of separating genders. But the parents and administrators who embrace it argue that boys and girls learn differently and that many kids, especially early adolescents who struggle in school, achieve better focus and better performance when separated.

In 2004, there were just 34 single-sex schools, according to the National Association of Single Sex Public Education. By 2014, the U.S. Department of Education estimated there were 850, according to the New York Times.

And measured by parental demand in Tampa, this phenomenon is not going away. There are 12 magnet middle schools in Hillsborough County with various emphases, but the two single-sex schools get more applications than the other 10 combined, says Carla Sparks, director of single gender programs for Tampa’s Hillsborough County Schools.

Pseudoscience? Maybe. Anachronistic? Perhaps. But single-sex education retains both a long tradition and a broad appeal that seems unlikely to fade in an era when parents have come to expect a smorgasbord of educational choice.

Vive la différence

The popularity of single sex schools rests, at least indirectly, on research that shows boys’ and girls’ brains are different.

One prominent neuroscientist who insists that boys and girls develop differently is Dr. Martha Denckla, a neurologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Denckla says she has conducted and replicated large-scale studies, always arriving at the same result. From 20 weeks of pregnancy through puberty, she says, the brains of girls develop faster than boys.

“That’s a long time for girls to be in the front seat,” she says.

One place the difference shows up is in the ability to make “rapid sequenced movements with fingers,” she says, “which is in the same circuitry as using a pencil to make a quick sequence of moves.”

Many little boys, Denckla says, have “mitten hands,” meaning the four fingers can’t be manipulated separately. This difference is most stark in kindergarten. A normal distribution graph of 5-year-old girls can be overlaid directly on a graph of 6-year-old boys. The girls are a full year ahead of the boys.

At that age, the gender gap on finger control is dramatic. The most advanced 5-year-old boys, she says, will bump up against the least advanced girls. The gap narrows through grade school, but doesn’t disappear until about the time of puberty.

And in general, boys develop at a slower rate than girls, Denckla said.

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Watching my daughter transform with Candor!

My daughter has been studying in Candor International for two years and we have seen her change, from being a withdrawn girl to a more confident one. It makes me so happy as a father as she wasn’t always so confident and struggled with major issues from the time she turned eight.  She was always a quiet and shy child but was good in studies and though she took long to make friends, when she did she cherished her friends and was so generous with them.  We were living in Chennai then and she was studying in a pretty famous school. Her primary years in school seemed okay, but once she went to middle school she started to change. She became withdrawn and sullen. She stopped eating and there were days when she refused to go to school. We tried talking to her and cajoling her to tell us what had happened, but she just kept silent.

The school organised a picnic in October and that day my daughter threw her first real tantrum. She refused to go and started bawling. This time we refused to let up.  We pestered and pestered her till she broke down and told us that one of her classmates was bullying her. This girl would go on pulling her hair, hiding her books, hitting her hard on her back and making fun of her along with the other classmates. We went to school the next day and spoke to the teacher who actually tried to dismiss it as all part of growing up. We went straight to the principal who thankfully took the matter more seriously. The bullying stopped but the damage had been done. Our sweet and shy daughter just became withdrawn.

When we moved to Bangalore two years back, we put her in Candor International. It was a new school but we liked the look of it. I shared my daughter’s experience with a teacher recently and was so surprised to hear that a few weeks later Candor International organised a special assembly that dealt with bullying. As parents, we were so happy that the school was taking this matter so seriously. They keep having sessions on different topics and we’ve seen our daughter transform back into the shy but effervescent little girl she is. Candor is a proactive school that really wants children to shine.

Lawsuit over stolen Nazi art at U of Oklahoma suspended

A federal judge has suspended activity in a lawsuit that challenges the ownership of a painting that hangs at a University of Oklahoma art gallery as negotiations continue with a French woman who claims the artwork was stolen from her family by Nazis during World War II.

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton signed an order to suspend activity in the lawsuit until Feb. 28 as negotiations continue between attorneys for Leone Meyer and the university over the painting “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep” by the impressionist master Camille Pissarro.

Meyer filed the lawsuit in May 2013, saying the painting belonged to her adopted father. Meyer, a Jewish woman who lives in Paris, wrote an open letter in 2014 that said her biological family was killed at Auschwitz between 1942 and 1944. Meyer survived the Holocaust and was adopted by Raoul and Yvonne Meyer in 1946.

Raoul Meyer fled to the United States, but returned to Europe in 1945 and found the painting missing. He discovered it in Geneva six years later — a year after the statute of limitations ran out. He claimed subsequent owners made a weak attempt to prove the Pissarro wasn’t on a list of known Nazi-looted works. A Swiss court found that post-war owners had done due diligence and rejected Meyer’s claim.

Oklahoma oil tycoon Aaron Weitzenhoffer and his wife, Clara, purchased the painting from a New York gallery in 1956. The painting was among more than 30 works totaling $50 million that were donated to the university when Clara Weitzenhoffer died in 2000. It now hangs in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.

Leone Meyer’s lawsuit claims that “minimal ownership information” was provided for the 1886 painting and other artwork in the collection and has demanded the painting be returned to her.

An attorney for Meyer, Pierre Ciric, released a joint statement Thursday that states negotiations between Meyer, the university and the OU Foundation are ongoing and the parties “are diligently working to reach a final agreement.”

Heaton’s order, signed Tuesday, says the parties told the court they’ve reached a compromise and settlement. But state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, who has closely monitored Meyer’s lawsuit and urged the university to return the artwork, said suggestions that a settlement has been reached are premature.

“All that has occurred is a cooling-off period,” said Wesselhoft, R-Moore. “Leone Meyer wants the painting. That’s the real story.”

Wesselhoft also said he has made a formal request for information and documents involving all 30 of the paintings the university received from the Weitzenhoffer family and believes there are other paintings in the collection that were looted by the Nazis. He said he has not yet received the documents.

Some Tips On How to Teach English

Teaching anyone a foreign language can be pretty hard. It is really hard for many people to understand how to teach English.

Teaching anyone a foreign language can be pretty hard. It is really hard for many people to understand how to teach English. If this is your job, there are many ways to make your learners to gain the right skills once their course is complete. As their teacher, you have to also dedicate your time to learn about the things that you can do to make it easier to teach this subject. If you are teaching English as a second language, your learners will be looking up to you to acquire their first language skills. This is why you have to give the English language learners the right information at the very beginning.

First of all, you need to understand that teaching this language does not involve showing your students how to memorize some common English words and phrases and teaching them a little bit of grammar. Some of the core elements of English teaching are listening and pronunciation. For your students to gain some listening skills in English, you can ask them to speak English and then record their speeches. Ask the English language learners to compare the way they speak English with the native speakers’ speech. Practicing this activity will help them to improve on their listening and pronunciation.

Your students also need to learn how to speak the language. This can be done through face to face teaching whereby the English teacher selects a suitable topic for the students. In such a case, one of the mistakes that should be avoided completely is interrupting students when they are speaking. You shouldn’t try and correct the students’ errors as they speak. This will lower your students’ morale and prevent them from engaging in any public speaking.

You also need to teach your students how to read English. Your students need to recognize the right vocabularies. You can help them to be confident when reading English by using a number of teaching activities like scanning and skimming. You should also think of investing in a number of text books which are available to help ESL teachers boost their student’s reading skills. Other than the text books, there is also the option of online software that can be a helpful resource for those who want to get intensive reading courses for English language learners. When teaching your students how to write English, you need to consider their age and their main purpose of learning the language. Other areas like punctuation and grammar can also be improved.

As an English teacher, you might also need a course outline and lesson plan when teaching this language. The course outline is usually given by the school because it helps the student to get an overview of what the ESL course will cover. Most teachers who need a lesson plan have a number of other lessons to teach in a day. They need the lesson plan to help organize well. This plan should be properly written in a concise manner. If you are an English teacher, there are a number of online resources where you can get critical information on how to teach this language. Get online to find out more.

Midvale Elementary addition gives students, teachers a space of their own

The Midvale Mustangs have a few new corrals, so to speak, now that a $1 million expansion at Midvale Elementary has been completed.

Four classrooms were added to the 4-year-old school, located at 7830 Chapel St., to address high enrollment numbers.

Midvale Elementary Principal Chip Watts says there’s been a marked change in the attitude of the students in the month since the school’s fourth-grade and Dual Language Immersion program moved from portable classrooms to classrooms inside the building.

“I think the best feedback I have received from the students is that they feel like part of the school now,” Watts said in a prepared statement. “When they were in the portables, they felt like they were separate from the rest of the school. Teachers say they have noted a sense of community, and the feeling in the class has improved by being a part of the school.”

Watts said the addition, the first construction project completed with funds from a $250 million bond approved by voters in spring 2010, makes it easier for the students to access the lunchroom, restrooms and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) classes that are part of the elementary school’s curriculum.

Why your child should start kindergarten a year late

A study by Stanford Graduate School of Education professor Thomas Dee suggests that delaying kindergarten by one year, known as “redshirting,” can significantly reduce hyperactivity and boost attention spans.

The benefits can be traced as late as age 11, and do not seem to come with attendant academic liabilities. “The reading, writing and other academic skills are more easily learned when a child is able to better self-regulate, even if that happens at an older age,” Dee said in a Stanford press release. “At that age, play is learning — it’s not an either or.”

The research centered on Denmark, where children enter kindergarten in the calendar year they turn 6, with Dec. 31 as the cutoff. A resulting survey of over 50,000 parents of 7-year-olds and of over 35,000 parents of 11-year-olds provided the data.

“This is some of the most convincing evidence we’ve seen to support what parents and policymakers have already been doing — choosing to delay kindergarten entry,” Dee said.

Already, the report notes, many parents hold their children out an extra year, with roughly 20 percent of American children entering kindergarten at age 6.

Dee seems to be reacting, at least in part, to academic pressure now reaching into kindergarten in the United States. His alternative to kindergarten for the first year is a high-quality play-based preschool. In other words, what kindergarten once was.

A 2009 report by the Alliance for Childhood, called “Crisis in the Kindergarten,” warned of growing academic pressure squeezing out “developmentally appropriate learning practices” of play and socialization, calling for a “reversal of the pushing down of the curriculum that has transformed kindergarten into de facto first grade.”

“Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?” asked a research team at the University of Virginia earlier this year.

“Kindergarten teachers in the later (recent) period held far higher academic expectations for children both prior to kindergarten entry and during the kindergarten year,” the report concluded. “They devote more time to advanced literacy and math content, teacher-directed instruction and assessment, and substantially less time to art, music, science and child-selected activities. Changes were most pronounced for schools serving high proportions of low-income and non-white children.”

BYU Museum of Art’s departing contemporary art curator leaves notable legacy

With its marvelous mountain ranges, sprawling deserts and rich history, Utah has inspired countless artists to attempt to capture the state’s unique spirit. Sumptuous landscapes and educational illustrations of Utah’s Native American and pioneer heritage abound in the canon of recognizable Utah art. Utah’s contemporary art scene, however, may be a bit elusive to casual art observers.

In response to the challenging yet intellectually relevant nexus of contemporary artistic practice in the modern world, the Brigham Young University Museum of Art hired Jeff Lambson as the museum’s first curator of contemporary art in 2008. Since then, Lambson’s work has contributed greatly to the appreciation of contemporary art in Utah and to Utah’s art scene as a whole.

“Jeff Lambson has had a profound and hopefully lasting impact on contemporary art in Utah,” said Gretchen Dietrich, executive director of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. “He’s curated numerous thought-provoking exhibitions, brought many amazing contemporary artists from around the world to BYU and Utah, and done much to support and promote artists working in our state.”

Now, after eight years, Lambson is relocating to Denver. The move comes as his wife, celebrated art educator Ann Lambson, has accepted a position as the senior educator for art and design at the Denver Art Museum.

Born in Utah, Jeff Lambson spent time in St. Louis before returning to Provo to receive his master’s of art in art history and curatorial studies from BYU. Lambson met Ann while in St. Louis, and their shared passion for art propelled them to pursue simultaneous graduate degrees in art history and to eventually work alongside each other at the BYU MOA.

Among Lambson’s accomplishments has been helping BYU students and other visitors to the BYU MOA get on board with contemporary art.

“The university has been overwhelmingly positive about contemporary art and creating a space where we can have a dialogue,” Lambson said.

For many people, art embodies the skill of the artist through recognizable visual representations, such as portraits, landscapes and religious narratives. Contemporary art, however, often bucks tradition in favor of aesthetic and intellectual experimentation, and interpreting a piece of abstract art can prove difficult for some.

Lambson recognizes the difficulty in presenting contemporary art to general audiences. Prior to his time at BYU, he worked at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum. His experience there was foundational as it inspired him to devise successful strategies for educating people about contemporary art.

“I had a profound experience while I worked at the Smithsonian,” Lambson said. “I visited the national zoo, where I witnessed a father and son discussing an exhibit about African frogs. The son asked about the frog, to which the father read to him the information on the wall plaque next to the display.

“Later, at the Hirshhorn, I saw another father and son pairing moving around the gallery. They settled on a piece of contemporary art. This time, the son asked his father about the painting, and after looking at the informational plaque, the father could tell his son nothing about the artwork, and the two left looking disappointed. From this moment on, I made it my mission to give people the proper tools to understand contemporary art, and to curate shows that demonstrate its importance and significance.”

For Lambson, it’s not about forcing a reading of contemporary art but is instead about giving viewers the tools necessary to decide for themselves.

Whitney Tassie, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, can attest to Lambson’s success: “Jeff had a way of making his work approachable and relevant, something we all strive to do but isn’t easy.”

Escalante Elementary gets $10K for computer equipment

Cameron Wilson, vice president and chief operating officer of government affairs at Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science, presents a $10,000 check to Escalante Elementary School computer teacher Mischelle Colby and Principal Liz Gonzalez during an assembly at the school in Rose Park on Monday.

The funds will be used to buy computer equipment to support improved student outcomes in computer science. The award is part of the state’s partnership with Code.org to increase computer science opportunities for all Utah students in grades K-12.

Monday also marked the start of the global movement Hour of Code, which was created by Code.org in 2013 and reaches tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries. The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.