Monday, April 27, 2015

Mercedes Schneider: Lily Garcia and Randi Weingarten, Common Core Afficiandos

Lily Garcia and Randi Weingarten

Lily Eskelsen Garcia


Randi, Lily, and Their Common Core Fidelity
Mercedes Schneider, April 27, 2015


I was in Chicago this past weekend for the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE).

(A number of videos of conference sessions will be available here. In the first video, the session to which I refer in this post is around 2:10:00.)

One of the sessions I attended was the Sunday morning keynote (April 26, 2015) in which education historian and NPE founding president Diane Ravitch interviewed both National Education Association (NEA) president Lily Eskelsen Garcia and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten.

Both Garcia and Weingarten support the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which seems to be (now) chiefly embraced by Democrats (see here, and here, and here)… and by Republican Jeb Bush.

During the Sunday NPE interview, Ravitch asked both Garcia and Weingarten to state their positions on CCSS.

Weingarten went first. She stated that she did not support a “federal” CCSS.

Word games.

As it stands, only two days after her statement above, on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, Weingarten is the opening speaker for the very-pro-CCSS Center for American Progress (CAP) “revealing” report entitled, “How Teachers Are Leading the Way to Successful Common Core Implementation.”

The idea of CCSS’ merely suffering from “poor implementation” is an idea near to Weingarten’s heart for years now. So, if America could just experience a handful of teachers “successfully implementing” CCSS, that would prove that CCSS homogenization of American education is the way to go.

CAP president Carmel Martin will also be participating in this CCSS implementation yard sale, even though in September 2014, she defended CCSS with astounding cluelessness in this Intelligence Squared debate in New York City.

Indeed, this is not the first Martin-Weingarten summit. The two came together to negotiate a position on “testing and accountability” in the initial Senate-proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) in January 2015. An outcome of this January 2015 meeting is the Weingarten shuffle to support the annual testing she previously opposed.

In the NPE event moderated by Ravitch, Weingarten was quick to point out her years ago pressing for a moratorium around CCSS testing. However, a moratorium is only a delay. Thus, from Weingarten, expect continued CCSS and CCSS-assessment support couched in politically-lubricated language.

And there is plenty of CCSS lube available for Garcia, as well.

Sure, Garcia has taken a stronger stance against the annual testing than has Weingarten, but in her response to Ravitch’s question about her position on CCSS, Garcia clearly chose to answer the unasked question, “What are some of your favorite CCSS standards, Lily?”

Yep. Garcia offered the NPE audience a soft-sell, Helen Steiner Rice moment regarding a few “favorite” standards, emphasizing that these CCSS faves could not be adequately assessed using bubble tests. So, since she found three standards that she “favors,” Garcia hopes to cement in the NPE audience psyche the idea that all of the K12 CCSS math and ELA standards are fine, and that they are fine as a set for all classrooms nationwide.

Garcia offered no word on her least-liked CCSS standards. To do so would have been to criticize the CCSS that she clearly supports in its entirety. Garcia’s allowing any semblance of truly critical thought to enter her CCSS sell would have killed the figurative, tender-moment music and sent Helen Steiner Rice packing.

And so, there we have it in brief, my readers.

Two union leaders; one beloved CCSS.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Roger Stone: Hillary's War On Women

Hillary Clinton

Roger Stone
Hillary's Woman Problem

With her Brooklyn campaign headquarters open, Hillary Clinton is running for president. However, Hillary’s imminent campaign will lack an agenda, platform or a vision for the country. This is by strategic choice.
In the same guise as Bush 41, when hevisited New Hampshire during the 1992 GOP primary against Pat Buchanan and blurted out that his “Message: I care,”this past March at the Emily’s List 30 year gala, her first public appearance since the public learned of the private email scandal, Hillary blurted out her 2016 rationale as “(D)on’t you someday want to see a woman president?”
The woman card will certainly send some weak-kneed Republicans, who are still in shock after losing the last two presidential races to the first African-American president, into a panic. However, it shouldn’t.
If Hillary intends to build her campaign around an appeal to women, her campaign theme is on quicksand. But for Hillary to be defeated, Republicans must attack this perceived strength by educating the public to the plain truth: Hillary is a life-time abuser of women and her advocacy on women issues rings hollow. While core Democratic women will not be weaned from the former First Lady, a large percentage of younger independent women can be persuaded against her by the truth.
For instance, while Hillary gives lip service to pay equality, her Senate office paid women 72 cents on the dollar compared to men. Even worse, the median salary for women was less than $15,000 of the median salary for men.
The Clinton Foundation’s record is even worse. In 2013, eight of the top elevenmost highly compensated individuals were men. The gender pay gap also widened every year during the period of 2011-2013; in 2011 women earned 77 percent of men’s income, in 2012 women earned 71 percent of men’s income and in 2013 women earned less than 65 percent of their male counterparts. Hillary often forgets that hypocrisy is not a virtue.
Meanwhile, the Clinton Foundation has pocketed millions of dollars from foreign Muslim regimes that oppress women. Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar and the Arab Emirates have funneled millions to the Clintons.
These countries all deny women the most basic of human rights: the right to an education, the right to drive a car, the right to choose her own husband – even the right to show her face. They condone caning and stoning women accused of adultery. Their cash is tainted with the blood of women abused, but Hillary’s foundation still accepts it. Hypocrisy anyone?
Then there is Hillary’s role in denigrating victims of Bill Clinton’s serial sexual abuse and authorizing heavy handed tactics to silence the victims of Bill’s assaults. Juanita Broderick, Paula Jones, Kathy Willey all alleged they were assaulted by Bill Clinton. Sometimes he just exposed himself and demanded oral sex.
Hillary “is the war on women, as far as I’m concerned, because with every woman that she’s found out about—and she made it a point to find out who every woman had been that’s crossed his path over the years—she’s orchestrated a terror campaign against every one of these women, including me,” said Willey.
Instead of outrage against her husband for being a sexual predator, Hillary repeatedly smeared and attacked Bill’s victims. Hillary called Monica Lewinsky, a “narcissistic looney toon” in private conversations with confidante Diane Blair.She called Gennifer Flowers “trailer trash.” Clinton rape victim Juanita Broaddrick said Hillary Clinton threatened her in person only two weeks after she was violated by Bill Clinton. Heavy handed California private detective Jack Palladino confirmed Hillary paid him as well as now-jailed PI Anthony Pellicano to silence Bill's victims.
Hillary’s strong handed tactics against abused women were not just used for Bill. When Sen. Bob Packwood was accused of sexual harassment by a group of women in 1993, Clinton told Blair she was “tired of all those whiney women and she needs (Packwood) on health care.” So much for sisterhood.
Unlike 2008, I expect many of Bill’s victims to speak during the 2016 cycle. Having already interviewed many of them, I can say all have been threatened and all pose a grave threat to Hillary’s ambitions. While swing female voters may not listen to crusty old white Republicans, perhaps they will listen to their terrorized sisters. As a result of Citizens United, the victims of Bill and Hillary’s many abuses can and will have wide reach and exposure.
Hillary was quick to denounce Senate Republicans for their inaction on a sex trafficking bill on Twitter only weeks ago. Yet she was not so fast to return the contribution of convicted pedophile and friend of Bill Jeffrey Epstein who was trafficking under-age girls to an A list of celebrities that may have include Bill Clinton himself.
The Clinton Foundation accepted $25,000 from Epstein after his conviction in Florida. She also took a 2008 campaign contribution from Ghislaine Maxwell who worked as Epstein’s pimp recruiting under -aged girls for their sexual abuse and trafficking enterprise. Maxwell got immunity in the controversial sealed non-prosecution agreement in which Epstein got a slap on the wrist. Now she works for a non-profit funded by the Clinton Foundation. Child trafficking anyone?
Hillary’s self-purported advocacy for women is a crock. While Bill sexually abused women over the years, Hillary followed these abuses with psychological abuses. The one-two Clinton punch. They key to defeating her is proving it to women voters.

My book "The Clinton's War on Women" out in June
New York Times Bestseller "The Man Who Killed Kennedy-the Case Against LBJ"- Amazon's #1 JFK book for 17 weeks – Now in paperback with new chapters and updated information

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lois Weiner on Champions and Losers


Getting rid of the losers, like teachers who are “old and costly” and kids who are not “champions”


LINK
Lois Weiner
April 8, 2015

  A headline in a recent news story about Los Angeles teachers, calling the district’s teaching force “old and costly,” is a companion piece to the New York Times front page article about the Success Academy chain headed by Eva Moskowitz. Taken together these explain why teachers unions are being attacked so viciously and why the unions need to change gears and direction now. Once again, the Chicago Teachers Union leads the way in its new contract demands.

The Right and many liberals insist that improving teacher quality is the best way to end poverty. This line of reasoning is based on the assumption that governments are powerless - or ought not - interfere with the “right” to make profit in any way possible, including or especially in situations of dire emergency and human disaster, as Naomi Klein explains. Having succeeded in firing all of New Orlean’s teachers, mainly African American, after Katrina, to create the first all-charter school district in the nation, education “reformers” in both parties have gone after career teachers elsewhere. The aim, as this news article shows, is to eliminate experienced teachers who cost more. In so doing teaching is destroyed as a career and profession. To make that happen in a way that is seemingly objective, the project to marketize education, uses scores from standardized tests to evaluate teachers, tweaked to allow for differences in students’ characteristics in what is called “value added measures.”

We should have no illusions that these reforms will help all students achieve, the rhetoric that’s used to defend marketization and testing. In fact, the goal is to “blow up” (Chester Finn’s term) the system of public education created at the turn of the last century. From neoliberalism’s stand point, the system was not sufficiently Darwinian because of increased economic competition. The sorting of those who deserve good jobs and those who don’t has to begin in kindergarten. Parents who are desperate to make sure that their children will be among “the haves” with access to the rapidly diminishing number of good jobs the global economy offers submit their children to many practices that advantaged parents may not be willing to permit.

I want to caution that how kids learn and should be taught is not universal. I think that some white progressives are too quick to dismiss differences in teaching and learning that are related to cultural expectations, and I urge that we acknowledge that good teachers and parents can disagree about what works for kids, as older kids will disagree among themselves. There are, however, certain ground rules we have to insist upon, like behaviors that show we respect one another. As a teacher and teacher educator I think that respect is clearly missing in Success Academy’s practice of shaming low achievers by posting their scores to be seen by classmates and making their lives “misery.” I would urge parents not to send their children to a school that uses these practices. Respect is also missing in classrooms making poor kids of color obedient to teachers’ control of every bodily function, as occurs in prisons - preparation for what awaits students who don’t respond positively enough to the tactics of “champion” teachers who follow this prescription for good teaching.

Older teachers are often not considered “champions” because they have ideas borne of experience and education about how schools should operate, how they and students should be supported. They want wages sufficient to support a family and working conditions that allow them to spend time with their own children. They are “costly” not only in salary but in their potential, in their unions, collectively to challenge the authoritarianism that pervades schools.

An essential aspect of persuading parents to see alternatives to the dog-eat-dog competition to which they are told they must submit their children is for unions to do as the Chicago Teachers Union has in its latest contract proposals. The union is using the contract talks to challenge the school district and city about conditions in schools, administrative demands that rob kids of teachers' time, class size, as well as broader political issues of funding and fair taxation. In so doing the union supports parents and the public to see - and join with them in fighting for - a different vision of education, one in which we don’t have schools create a select group of “champions” and toss out the rest as disposable. The union has arrived at these demands through a bottom-up process and brings them to negotiations in a representative team of 50 members. In so doing, it models the democratic relations we need in schools and what teachers unions throughout this country need to do, pronto.

You can follow me on twitter and Facebook. If you haven't already, you may want to read my book aboutThe Future of Our Schools. If you’re in Chicago April 17-20, you can join researchers looking at what’s happening in teacher unionism. Info on the offerings are in the online program at aera.net, including two panels in which I am participating.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Aimee Sabo: G & T Kids With IEPs - Where Can They Be Placed?

Is there a place for G&T 

kids with IEPs?

by Aimee Sabo
There is no Integrated Co-Teaching class at Brooklyn School for Inquiry although most classrooms have at least two adults.
As the May 10 deadline for parents to rank gifted and talented applications approaches, one Insideschools message board became a hotbed of anxiety. “Do you know what G&T is supposed to do with kids who get accepted to a G&T school but have IEP's requiring ICT placement?” asked one parent. My son also has an IEP and is in ICT and is G&T. No place for him....” echoed another. The questions about inclusive gifted classes didn’t stop.
Parents want it, educators applaud it, and the DOE supports the idea—at least in theory. But a year after special education reform, there is still not a single combined G&T/ICT class in the city. No one seems to understand why.
"Twice exceptional” or "2e" kids are cognitively gifted children who also struggle with learning and attention disorders. Many of these students' Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) call for an Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) class, which has two teachers, one of whom is trained in special education. The special education reform rolled out in all schools last year is meant to allow students to attend their school of choice and still receive needed special services, including these team-taught classes.  
Like many administrators we spoke to, Assistant Principal Nicole Nelson of the progressive citywide G&T school Brooklyn School of Inquiry, was surprised but intrigued by the idea of a combination G&T/ICT class, though she didn’t see it happening any time soon. “Once a child is with us we stick with them,” she said of students needing learning support. “We hope to change their environment to make it work and if that involved an ICT and we had enough kids we would do it.” Principal Donna Taylor agrees. "If there were [ICT/G&T classes], I'd be first in line,” she said, pointing out that the admissions process doesn't enable grouping children with similar needs; first kids have to pass the G&T test and then they have to be chosen in the lottery.
But according to the Department of Education, there is no minimum number of special education students required for the creation of an ICT class. Just one is enough. Still, many schools do not want to pay for an extra teacher merely to satisfy a handful of IEPs.
Lack of direction from the DOE and plain old inertia contribute to the limited options for 2e kids, say some parents. Miriam*, the mother of a kindergartner at the G&T program at PS 32 in District 15 says the social worker at her son’s Turning 5 meeting insisted she had to remove the ICT requirement from her son’s IEP after he qualified for the gifted program last spring—misinformation that she believes is common. Many gifted schools counsel parents to change their child’s IEP to require a full-time paraprofessional instead of an ICT class, a practice that Principal Donny Lopez of PS 163 on the Upper West Side confirms is prevalent. "Schools will do the best to support what the IEP states, but if someone has the need for an ICT, sometimes these needs can be met by a one-to-one para. Schools will make accommodations." 
Another obstacle to the reform may be parent resistance, or at least the perception of it. “I could see parents having concerns,” said James Lark, a social worker at PS 166 in District 3. “G&T parents worship our program. I don’t know how amenable they would be in terms of an ICT program in conjunction with G&T.” For some incoming families the fear of prejudice toward their 2e kids is enough to forgo applying to gifted programs altogether.
Marci Shaw, the parent coordinator at The Anderson School, one of five citywide gifted schools, is not surprised by rumors of intolerance for special needs children at her school. As the mother of two Anderson graduates herself, one of whom struggled with learning issues, she denies these rumors adamantly. “Lots of kids here need extended time or have problems like dysgraphia. We don’t have a large number of kids with significant issues, but according to law, if someone has an IEP we are required to deal with it.”
Part of the problem, she said, is a lack of resources. Anderson doesn't have even a part-time special ed staff. “We’re really strapped,” she said. “When someone comes in with an IEP, between now and September it’s a scramble to find the money to hire therapists.”
Although the special education reforms have been in place for a year, administrators may need some time to catch up. How efficiently schools support 2e kids going forward will have a strong impact on their overall well-being, Dr. Daniela Montalto, a neuropsychologist at NYU’s Child Study Center, wrote via email. She explained that many 2e children lose confidence and have trouble making friends without adequate support. “These students are bright enough to know that something is impeding their abilities and often feel frustrated, angry or confused by their inability to show all that they know.” She added that the DOE should consider providing ICT classes for gifted children.
Sarah,* the mother of two elementary students at NEST+M (both with IEPs), has seen her son’s self-confidence suffer. She describes her 5th-grader as having high grades and being at the top of his class in math, although he needs a full-time paraprofessional to manage his behavior. “My son puts so much effort into his behavior and he has made progress. It’s not for lack of wanting to improve.” Still, she says the school tried to counsel him out before the recent special ed reforms were put in place. Administrators at NEST+M could not be reached to comment.
The effort of advocating for her son has taken a toll, emotionally and financially. “It’s one of the reasons I’m not working,” says Sarah, who makes a habit of attending citywide special education meetings, posting on2e message boards and speaking with DOE officials. Her tenacity with Deputy Chancellor Corinne Rello-Anselmi paid off when the DOE granted her son a behaviorist to work with him in school, a rare occurrence that she said was life changing while it lasted. The specialist has since quit.
When asked about the possibility of combination G&T/ICT classes, Rello-Anselmi’s office issued this statement: We are working to build the capacity of G&T programs to create programs to meet student needs, including ICT. The DOE encourages the participation of students with disabilities in our gifted and talented programs. All of our schools, including those with G&T programs, work to meet the needs of students with IEPs in the least restrictive environment appropriate for them. We are committed to promoting student achievement by ensuring that students have the supports they need to succeed.”
For many 2e parents, this isn’t enough.
“I’ve formed the opinion that to really get G&T/ICT classes to work, the DOE should probably start a couple in several central schools that currently have both G&T classes and ICT classes. So the administration has expertise delivering both,” said Sarah, adding that these schools could serve as models for other programs. “I think one thing hindering the reform is that parents don’t want their kids to be guinea pigs.”
Evie Rabeck, parent of a 3rd-grader with an IEP at the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, agrees. “I always thought what my kid needed would have been a G&T/ICT class.” Although Rabeck has been pleased with her son’s progress at the school, which she says has been welcoming and supportive from the start, she says it’s up to parents to make things happen. “The system does not support these kids. Every parent has to be a noisy, loud, obnoxious super-advocate for what their child needs. It’s a fight. I’m a little tired of fighting, but it’s a fight."
Parents who would like to learn more about their rights and what the DOE is doing to advocate for 2e children, should email Deputy Chancellor Corinne Rello-Anselmi’s office atspecialeducationreform@schools.nyc.gov. Parents may also wish to contact the advocacy group Resources for Children with Special Needs or post their comments here.
  
*Parent requested that her real name not be used to protect anonymity.


Special Education TeacherSupport ServicesIndependent Provider Registry 

"Dark Money" and Access To Power

Secretly Buying Access to a Governor


Addicted to each other’s power and money, the political parties and their corporate donors are constantly trying to enlarge their relationship out of sight of the American public. An accidental Internet disclosure last month showed that the stealthy form of political corruption known as “dark money” now fully permeates governor’s offices around the country, allowing corporations to push past legal barriers and gather enormous influence.

This has been going on nationally for several years, of course, after wealthy interests claimed that a series of legal decisions allowed them to give unlimited and undisclosed amounts to “social welfare” groups that pretended not to engage in politics. (The tax code prohibits these groups from having politics as a primary purpose.) Now it turns out that both the Republican and Democratic governors’ associations have also set up social welfare groups — known in the tax code as 501(c)(4) associations — with the purpose of raising secret political money.

Thanks to the computer slip, discovered by the liberal group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, we now know some of the people and corporations that secretly contributed to the Republican organization, known as the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee. The names are familiar and include executives of the Southern Company, the big utility; the Edison Electric Institute, which represents power companies; Aetna, WellPoint and several Blue Cross affiliates, all large health insurers; Amplify, Rupert Murdoch’s education sales division; and multiple lobbyists.

In exchange for their private donations, “members” of this group were invited to a symposium last year on energy, education, health care, the environment and other issues at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif. There they were allowed to meet with (and lobby) some of the highest-ranking officials and regulators in states with Republican governors — the people who make big decisions on regulating utilities, setting environmental standards, and determining education policies.

Executives who made public donations to the Republican Governors Association (which is not a social welfare group and has to disclose its contributors) also were allowed to attend. Companies that gave at the highest level (more than $250,000) included Exxon Mobil, the

Corrections Corporation of America, Pfizer and the Koch companies. The documents say big donors are given “the greatest opportunity possible to meet and talk informally with the Republican governors and their key staff members.”

The Democratic Governors Association does exactly the same thing, regularly providing accessto top state executives in exchange for large contributions. It remains unclear, however, who is giving money to the Democratic association’s secret money group, which is camouflaged as the Center for Innovative Policy. (Not to be confused with the Center for Policy Innovation, which is run by the Heritage Foundation.)

There’s absolutely no legal justification for any political party to have a social welfare group, which exists solely as a vehicle for nervous donors who want to stay in the shadows. But whether the money is secret or disclosed, both parties are routinely selling access to the nation’s governors and their staffs to those with the most resources. Those without a checkbook can stay in the back of the line.

Sarah Henderson on Laughter and Learning

Sarah Henderson: Laughter and Learning: Humor Boosts Retention

Sarah Henderson

E.B. White famously quipped, "Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process." At the risk of committing some sort of "humor-cide," a type of scientific dissection must take place if teachers are to consider harnessing the powerful effects of humor, not only to increase joy and enhance the classroom environment, but also to improve learner outcomes.

The Funny Bone Is Connected to the Sense of Wonder

Teachers understand that humor is inherently social. How many times have you heard that same "Orange who?" knock-knock joke spread through your classroom? The contagious nature of humor naturally builds a sense of community (PDF, 731KB) by lowering defenses and bringing individuals together. If the brain is faced with an inconsistency, then laughter is the response when it is resolved in an unexpected way. This sentence, "Memorization is what we resort to when what we are learning makes no sense," may make us smile as our brains resolve its inconsistency.
Essentially, humor activates our sense of wonder, which is where learning begins, so it seems logical that humor could enhance retention. A Pew Research poll showed that viewers of humorous news shows such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report exhibited higher retention of news facts than those who got their news from newspapers, CNN, Fox News, or network stations. When Stephen Colbert demands, "If we don't cut expensive things like Head Start, child nutritionprograms, and teachers, what sort of future are we leaving for our children?", viewers laugh and also retain the knowledge of that specific budget issue.
A substantial body of research explains why we remember things that make us laugh, such as our favorite, hilarious high school moment or the details of that funny movie we saw last weekend. Neuroscience research reveals that humor systematically activates the brain's dopamine reward system, and cognitive studies show that dopamine is important for both goal-oriented motivation and long-term memory, whileeducational research indicates that correctly-used humor can be an effective intervention to improve retention in students from kindergarten through college.

Foolishness as a Tool

What does "correctly used" mean? Let’s take a closer look at some of the classroom research to find out. In one study, researchers asked nearly 400 college students to document their teachers' appropriate or inappropriate use of humor, their effectiveness as teachers, and how students perceived the humor. The results of this study showed that related, appropriate humor resulted in increased retention, while inappropriate, cruel, or unrelated humor did not. The study also discovered that humor can be perceived and appreciated without improving retention -- essentially, the student can think a teacher is "funny" but not show an improvement in retention. So, just being silly may get your students' attention, but may not lead to better retention. These researchers concluded that for improved retention, appropriate, topic-related instructional humor is most effective.
"According to recent surveys, 51 percent of the people are in the majority.” Did that statistics joke make you smile? Statistics may not be the first field that comes to mind when you think of content-related humor, but researchers wondered if humor could increase retention even in typically "dry"courses. In this study, college students listened to statistics lectures with and without content-related humor. They were then tested over the material and completed surveys regarding their enjoyment of the lectures. The test and survey results showed that retention was strongest in the lectures with content-related humor, and that students reported more enjoyment in the experience.

Age-Appropriate Humor

What about using humor with adolescents? If the idea of using humor in front of a classroom of judgmental teenagers makes you more nervous than a rookie teacher in his or her first parent-teacher conference, consider the researchshowing that adolescents tend to release more dopamine and have more dopamine receptors than adults. Because of their hyper-responsive dopamine reward system, adolescents may be uniquely primed to react positively to educational humor. Try telling a funny story or allowing your students to come up with humorous examples in their projects or discussions.Teach Like a Pirate has some great ideas for enhancing the humor in a high school classroom.
The children's TV show Sesame Street has harnessed the power of humor for decades. If you were asked to recall something from watching Sesame Street as a child, could you? Most likely, yes. You may remember Grover's silly antics, Mr. Noodles' constant confusion, or Big Bird struggling to get his friends to believe Mr. Snuffleupagus was real. That's why researchers chose Sesame Street episodes to test the impact of humor on retention and engagement in young children. Kindergarten and first grade students watched either a humorous or non-humorous Sesame Streetsegment. When content was tested, the children who watched the humorous segments scored higher and showed better engagement than the control group. Their engagement transferred even to the non-humorous portions of the lessons, resulting in improved retention throughout.
Here are some research-supported tips for using humor to increase retention:

Do

  • Use humor to enhance classroom joy
  • Use humor to develop a sense of community
  • Use content-related humor
  • Use age-appropriate humor
  • "Sandwich" humor between instruction and repetition.

Avoid

  • Sarcasm
  • Cruel or inappropriate humor
  • Forced humor
  • Off-topic humor
  • Too much humor.

About That Frog. . .

To sum up, we can turn to a meta-analysis of 40 years of educational humor research indicating that humor increases the strength of human connections, and that non-aggressive, relevant, appropriate humor appears to be a helpful learning tool. It seems to be particularly useful to sandwich humor between instruction and repetition. The authors of this meta-analysis caution that not everyone is naturally humorous, so educators shouldn't force it. Watching someone struggle to be funny is a very awkward experience and can defeat the purpose. Developmental differences must also be considered, as younger students may find irony, sarcasm, and exaggeration difficult to understand.
Although we may have slaughtered the proverbial frog in this analysis, these studies indicate that the use of appropriate, content-specific humor to reinforce concepts can be a positive tool to improve retention. Educators can utilize humor's systematic activation of the dopamine reward system to reinforce the brain's pathways to new knowledge.
Have you noticed humor-enhanced retention in your classroom?