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Joel McIntosh

Joel McIntosh
I'm the publisher at Prufrock Press. I've been involved with education for more than 20 years and hold a masters degree in gifted education. I've been a classroom teacher and a parent (still am that). In addition to this blog, you can follow me on Twitter. Feel free to contact me by e-mail if you have any questions about this blog or Prufrock Press.

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Articles from February 2010

Free Tutorial Videos on Math and Science

Salman Khan and the Khan Academy are back in the news, having recently being featured on NPR and PBS. At the Khan Academy website, there are more than 1,100 free instructional videos, each 10-20 minutes long, that range from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, biology, and finance. The videos cover concepts that, as a student, Sal felt were poorly taught through lectures and textbooks. Each video explains the concepts covered in the lesson in a comfortable, relaxed manner that reflects Sal's own easy understanding of math and doesn't compromise rigor or comprehensiveness. Sal also has included several hundred videos devoted to the SAT, GMAT, and other standardized test problems. 

Since I first wrote about the Khan Academy back in December 2008, Sal decided to quit his day job and devote himself full-time to expanding his library of instructional videos. Eventually, he plans to add even more academic subjects to the website.

The videos at the Khan Academy website can be used by a wide variety of students, including:

  • students who need a bit more instruction to understand a concept,
  • those who want to learn beyond what is being taught in the classroom, and
  • students who are preparing for certain standardized tests such as AP, SAT, and GMAT.

The videos can also be used in a variety of venues, such as the classroom, home, and around the world. Those who live in areas where an advanced class is not available, or those who are homeschooled, would particularly benefit from viewing Sal's videos.

I highly recommend that you take a good look at the website. View some of the instructional videos yourself and take a look at some of the videos explaining more about Sal Khan and his plans for the Khan Academy. The website is a wonderful resource and it is free.

Proposed Exams Could Allow Students to Graduate Two Years Early

Friday, February 19, 2010 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education, College Planning

A provocative eight-state initiative that could change the way high schools work was launched this week. The National Center on Education and the Economy announced a plan to pilot a national board examination for high school students. Results of the exam would allow many students to graduate two years early and attend junior colleges or move into the work force.

Each of the eight states (Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont) have pledged that in selected schools, students will be given a national board examination at the end of their tenth-grade year. Students passing the exam could graduate from high school and immediately enter junior college or the work force. Those passing students wishing to enter more rigorous four-year universities could begin taking advanced college preparation classes. Students failing the national board exam would be required to begin taking remedial classes designed to prepare them to pass the national boards the following year.

National Boards Progress Flow Chart
The junior and senior years of pilot high schools would focus on either remedial education or advanced college preparation classes exclusively.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a $1.5 million planning grant to help get the program running. According to the New York Times, the project organizers expect to cover additional implementation costs by applying for a portion of the $350 million in federal stimulus money designated for improving public schools.

To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about this project. On the one hand, it will allow public high schools to intensely focus resources on two goals: helping struggling learners meet national standards and preparing advanced learners for the academic rigor of the university. However, it will dramatically change the way the last two years of high school are organized and experienced by students. I'm also a little less than enthusiastic about a plan that assigns struggling learners to remedial classes based on a single type of test. It is not clear how much flexibility is allowed under the plan.

Regardless, this project is incredibly interesting and has the potential to impact high schools in a significant way. It will be interesting to see if research data coming out of the pilot schools support the plan's implementation on a nationwide basis.

Sharpening Gifted Brains

The SharpBrains blog is run by a market research firm that tracks new research into brain fitness and cognitive health. The website includes a number of articles and sections that may be of interest to parents and teachers of gifted kids.
Interesting articles from the website include:

Activities highlighted on the website include:

Brain Teasers. More than 50 brain teasers are divided into categories such as “attention,” “pattern recognition and planning,” and “visual illusions.” Many of the brain teasers are interactive and are accompanied by articles explaining the brain research that supports the activities.

The Art, Math, and Science of Snowflakes

With recent winter storms plaguing the country, now is the perfect time to introduce students to the study of snowflakes and crystals. Perhaps you thought that gazing at and trying to understand these beautiful creations was just a fun way to spend a few moments outside. However, some people dedicate their entire lives to studying these gifts from nature. was created by Kenneth G. Libbrecht, professor of physics and chairman of the Physics Department at Caltec. At this website, which is very well laid out and easy to follow, you will find:
  • incredible galleries of snowflake photos,
  • the classification of different types of snowflakes,
  • books about snowflakes,
  • information about the physics of snowflakes,
  • snowflake activities, and
  • tips on where to go to view the best snow crystals.
The Electron Microscopy Unit Snow Page, created by the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) offers a series of annotated photos of snowflakes taken with a Low Temperature Scanning Electron Microscope (LT-SEM). This website describes:
  • the special microscope that is used, 
  • the procedure for collecting the specimens, and
  • an elaborate system for classifying snow crystals.
It is so easy to get caught up in the required curriculum and ignore the everyday wonders that surround us. But by introducing students to a wide variety of subjects and interests that may be outside of the regular curriculum, we may just spark an interest in kids that will carry them forward to additional paths of inquiry.

NCLB Stagnates the Progress of Some Gifted Learners

Saturday, February 06, 2010 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education

Under NCLB, the academic progress of high-ability learners who are economically disadvantaged, English Language Learners, or historically underprivileged minorities has stagnated. That is the conclusion of a new report from the Indiana University Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. The report, Mind the (Other) Gap! The Growing Excellence Gap in K-12 Education, concludes that after nine years of NCLB, these students "represent a smaller proportion of students scoring at the highest levels of achievement."

In fact, the report makes it clear that while high-ability students from traditionally "over-represented groups" faired relatively well under NCLB, high-ability students from traditionally under-represented groups have made little progress. The report concludes, "whatever the effectiveness of ESEA/NCLB in shrinking the achievement gap at the level of minimum competence, there appears to be little comparable improvement at the advanced level."

From the report, "the final conclusion is clear: there has been little progress in substantially reducing excellence gaps since the passage of NCLB."

Download Mind the (Other) Gap! The Growing Excellence Gap in K-12 Education (PDF format, 1.7 MB)

The Science Behind Olympic Competition

NBC Learn has teamed up with NBC Olympics and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to produce a 16-part online video series that highlights the science behind winter sports, demonstrating how athletes preparing for the Vancouver Winter Games ski, skate, jump, and curl their way to Olympic gold. Each video illustrates how scientific principles apply to competitive sports. This is a great opportunity for educators to incorporate the Olympics into the classroom. It will engage both athletes and non-athletes alike with video titles such as:
  • Aerial Physics: Aerial Skiing
  • Competition Suits
  • Banking on Speed: Bobsled 
In each video, an NSF-supported scientist explains how a specific scientific principle applies to the sport. The athlete’s movements are captured on high-speed camera and then slowed down to illustrate scientific principles such as Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum, friction drag, speed, and velocity.
Athletes who are featured in the videos include:
Rachael Flatt (figure skating)—straight-A high school senior
Julie Chu (hockey)—two-time Olympic medalist and Harvard graduate
John Shuster (curling)—2006 Olympic bronze medalist
Emily Cook (freestyle skiing)—2006 Olympian
J.R. Celski (short track speed skating)—2010 Olympic hopeful
Liz Stephens (cross-country skiing)—2010 Olympic hopeful
For more information, see the article, The Science of the Olympic Winter Games.
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