Frequently asked questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. In grade 4, the knowledge/skill gaps are not that great. By 6th or 7th grade or higher, the gaps are significantly greater therefore requiring much greater perseverance to overcome and significantly reducing the odds of success.
  2. Most 4th graders still respond positively to praise from teachers and parents and are generally receptive to guidance from teachers.
    1. Students in 5th and higher grades that have a history of failure have often adopted a tough outer shell as a defensive move that makes them less receptive to efforts to help them (showing how tough you are is often more important than academic achievement).
    2. There is often increased peer pressure in 5th grade and above to not be perceived as a striver to do well in school.
    3. Keep in mind that at the time the initiative kicks off, we are talking about students that are just a couple of months out of 3rd grade.
  3. 4th grade (maybe 3rd grade in some cases) is the first grade where most students have reached a level of maturity to take some responsibility for their own education.
  4. 4th grade is a grade where the content level is still relatively simple and a large % of the population is able to jump in and help as formal or informal tutors and coaches. This cannot be said for Algebra, Trigonometry, etc.
  5. 4th grade is last chance for many. Many schools are not effective in helping students entering 5th grade far behind grade level recover and become successful.
  6. Extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs and jobs are not yet as much of a distraction in 4th grade.
  7. Perhaps most importantly, 4th graders are not yet distracted by puberty.
  8. Although this initiative is focused on 4th grade, we will also have several programs aimed at students in other grade levels. In addition, the initiative intends to add at least one grade level per year to the initiative until all K-12 grades are covered.

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  1. We are really talking about Arithmetic and Beginning Geometry here. These have a relatively small finite knowledge base (vocabulary, rules, methods, etc.) as compared to, for example Language Arts (reading, writing, grammar, etc.) which would be the next logical candidate which would be tackled in subsequent years.
  2. There are many effective learning tools available for Math.
  3. There are a great many people able to help students in learning K-4 Math (Arithmetic and beginning Geometry).
  4. The more limited vocabulary of math and the availability of tools and tutors increase the chances that the first year of the initiative will achieve its goals and therefore make it easier to expand the initiative in subsequent years.
  5. While Math is the focus of the first year of this initiative, the second year will focus on adding Reading and Writing. To that end, we will be actively encouraging learning aid publishers to use that first year to accelerate development of their tools in preparation for year two. Other subjects will be added in subsequent years.

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  1. Teachers at higher grade levels, even those teaching at better schools tell us that many students have knowledge/skill gaps in fundamentals.
  2. A solid foundation speeds later learning while also increasing accuracy.
  3. Most students will breeze through the concepts and methods they are already solid in meaning they will not really lose much time.
  4. Our goal is that every student go into 5th grade 100% at grade level with no gaps so as to maximize the chances of success in all future studies.

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The initiative calls for teachers to pledge to get 100% of students that do not have medical (including documented psychological) problems to 100% grade level mastery by the end of the 4th grade.  It is assumed that to do this, teachers will have to provide differentiated learning for all students that are not currently on track to achieve 100% mastery with the current approach.  It is expected that once each student is learning with a method and approach suited to their individual needs, they will make progress as best they can.  This is really like saying let’s give every student the kind of differentiated learning that each Special Ed student should ideally already be getting.  The bottom line is that every student will be advancing as effectively as possible using an approach best suited to their individual needs.  The only difference is that while we expect teachers to pledge to do all they can to get 100% of students without documented medical issues to 100% mastery, we only ask teachers to pledge to help students with medical challenges get as far as possible with approaches and support suited to their individual needs.

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  1. It is generally accepted that if students were to master 100% of certain learning tools such as text books or programs such as Khan Academy, ALEKS or dreambox, that they will have 100% mastered 100% of the K-4 Common Core Math requirements.
  2. It is generally accepted that most 4th grade students not having a medical disability can complete the K-4 components of tools such as Khan Academy or Dream Box in one hour a day (includes applied class time) in 1 school year.
  3. It is generally accepted that we can motivate most 4th graders and most 4th grade Math teachers to participate with the intended publicity and support campaigns (which would be ongoing for the entire year).

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  1. Continual tracking of progress in all schools.
  2. Reporting on special results or initiatives
  3. Continual reporting on special support involvement by communities, older students, education publishers, etc.
  4. Organizing of periodic community rallies for the initiative (community “hero” program).
  5. Etc.

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  1. We hope to have the 2 main teachers’ unions as initiative partners before the initiative is even announced.
  2. Many teachers are already accomplishing this goal for most of their students; it is therefore no big deal for them.
  3. As the publicity about teachers pledging spreads, one does not want to be perceived as a teacher lacking confidence in their ability to do their job.
  4. Some teachers will view this as an opportunity to get equipment, internet access, etc.
  5. How many teachers will be willing to stand up and say they will not do their best to help their students learn what they are supposed to learn?

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  1. Some students will join in because their teacher is encouraging them to pledge (as a vehicle to promote motivation)
  2. Some will join because their parents are pushing them
  3. Some will join because they see older students joining it
  4. Some will join because they think it is “totally cool” that students of their age are in the limelight of a national effort
  5. Some will join due to media coverage showing other 4th graders around the country joining in
  6. Some will join because their friends and peers are joining

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  1. The colored wristbands (made of colored wool, symbolize that one has pledged to help ALL 4th grade students get to 100% grade level mastery by the end of the 4th grade.
  2. It is a symbol of belonging and commitment.
  3. It is a constant reminder that one made the pledge oneself.

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  1. Some parents actively look for ways to get and keep their children engaged in school.
  2. Many parents will not want to be perceived of not supporting an initiative to improve academic achievement of their children if they perceive other parents are endorsing it.

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  1. This initiative provides a great opportunity for many education publishing companies and non-profits to showcase their education products/services in a way they would never be able to do on their own at a relatively low cost.
  2. To not be part of an initiative that has the focus of the education community nationwide would almost be the kiss of death for a company who hopes their product/service will succeed in that market space.

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  1. These companies are hopeful of doing a large business in the education market.
  2. This initiative provides a great opportunity to increase awareness of the suitability of their products/services in schools and the education community at large for a relatively low cost. (Dramatic improvement in educational results in one grade is likely to significantly increase demand for similar solutions in other grades.)
  3. To not be part of an initiative that has the focus of the education community nationwide would almost be the kiss of death for a company who hopes their products will succeed in that market space.
  4. For many manufacturers, the exposure they have in schools can enhance their general sales as parents and others become familiar with their products.

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  1. Local businesses already look for ways to be seen as supporting the local community (sponsoring local sports teams, etc.). A major community improvement initiative (especially involving education that reaches almost all members of the community) is a terrific opportunity for such companies to get some positive publicity.
  2. Local service clubs, social services organizations, religious organizations, etc. all see their mission as including improving youth opportunities. This initiative fits right in with their mission.
  3. Local personalities (especially those active in politics), always look for opportunities to affiliate themselves with positive community events and initiatives.
  4. We will make it very easy for local organizations and personalities to organize themselves and be active in supporting the local learning efforts by providing cloud-based web-site templates and organization templates and draft action plans, etc.
  5. The Learning Needs Clearing House website will also put the spotlight on community support for their students (positively in case of strong support and negatively in the case of low support).

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  1. Local personalities (especially those active in politics), always look for opportunities to affiliate themselves with positive community events and initiatives.
  2. Does anyone really envision politicians distancing themselves from an initiative that calls for better education achievement for students that would not cost taxpayers much and that is perceived to be an important positive initiative by the media and much of the population (governors, state legislators, mayors, councilmen, etc., etc., etc., and even a good chance of congressmen, senators and even the President).

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  1. The media are always looking for feel good news to report on.
  2. We are very focused on creating newsworthy “events” (e.g. having thousands of students show up unexpectedly in front of a TV studio, having tens of thousands of snail mail letters sent to a media outlet on a single day, having a thousand coordinated student rallies around the country on a single day, etc.).
  3. Education is a preferred topic of media.
  4. Local media (including local newspapers) are always looking for good local interest stories and we plan to have local news for them regularly. An initiative like this with a strong local component could significantly increase readership/listeners/viewers.
  5. There are many in media personalities that are personally dedicated to improving education.
  6. We hope to have a number of media personalities and organizations as sponsors, advisors or advocates for the initiative before the initiative even starts.

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  1. Many companies are already committing significant resources to promoting or supporting education initiatives or education in general (note the many already existing big advertising campaigns by major corporations).
  2. Most companies look for opportunities to affiliate themselves with major positive events or movements.

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  1. There are already many socially conscious teens looking for opportunities to do good for their community and country.
  2. Many teens recognize the implication of the education gap on society and the quality of life costs (unemployment, social services, welfare, higher education costs for children of lower socio-economic families, crime-related costs such as crime prevention, insurance, victim costs, etc.) that they will have to pay in the future.
  3. Many think it is cool to be part of a movement that is in the media limelight; especially one that shows youth have power.
  4. Many see this as a way to “show what their capable of”, build a personal reputation and create a network for their future endeavors.

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  1. The Incentive Pledge Wall is part of the Incentive website where local or regional sports, entertainment or other entities can pledge incentives to the initiative. These could include free tickets to sports or entertainment events, etc. or even public recognition during such events to students of schools or classes that achieved higher than a certain % of students achieving greater than 95% or so of grade level, etc..
  2. Sports, entertainment and other “personalities ” would also be encouraged to pledge incentives such as visits to the schools that had high achievement, high improvement, etc.

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  1. Local high school students will submit frequent articles describing the successes, challenges and remaining obstacles to getting ALL the 4th graders in their community to achieve 100% grade level mastery before the end of the school year.
  2. Articles will be submitted to local press and media (local papers will be approached separately to pledge to cover the initiative in their local communities.
  3. Articles will also be posted to the national website and the exceptional articles (about either inspiring stories or frustrating stories) will be forwarded to applicable regional and national press and media.

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  1. One reason we are starting with Math is that it has a relatively limited core vocabulary.
  2. Many of the tools that are available are available in other languages also (primarily Spanish).
  3. We will encourage providers to make arithmetic vocabulary tools available in many languages.

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  1. This initiative is primarily about challenging people to simply put in a little extra effort to accomplish what are already the current goals. There is no specific method required.  Each school and teacher decides how they want to proceed.  The only thing we ask is that they pledge t0 do everything they can to get every students to a defined goal.
  2. There is no good way to measure the effect of a public appeal to a limited area.
  3. It is the size of the campaign that captures the imagination which would not happen with a smaller pilot.
  4. Part of the strategy is to set enough balls in motion that some do exceptional things and then to publicize those exceptions such that others will try to follow those examples. If you shrink the sample space, you reduce the chances of having truly exceptional results to publicize.
  5. There is no downside to this initiative. Why would we want to exclude any student from the potential benefits given that it will no longer apply to them in following years.

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  1. Hour of Code was a mass initiative to get many children to devote an hour to see what computer programming is all about.
  2. One could call this initiative a “Year of Math.”
  3. The idea is to use similar promotional tactics to motivate large numbers of students and others to act in a manner that will encourage and support millions of students in the achievement of grade level mastery in the 4th grade.

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  1. Using both belts and suspenders minimizes risk. If either fails the other is able to do the job on its own. We believe in using multiple belts and suspenders.
  2. If we want to ensure awareness of something, we plan a large number of independent campaigns so that the odds are overwhelming that one will get the job done.

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  1. The hero program is run by the local community support group. It consists of honoring students, teachers and others in the community that make exceptional efforts to raise the achievement level of all 4th graders.
  2. Students should be given a role in determining who has contributed the most.
  3. Honors could be awarded in periodic community rallies to keep students and teachers motivated.
  4. This is not so much about individual study efforts, but rather efforts to help multiple students advance.

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