Singular Minds
November 1, 2005 • Volume II, Issue 2
Prolinguistica Dyslexia Correction Center
Laura Zink de Diaz

Quote of the Month #1
“There is always an easy solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.”
– H. L. Mencken (1917)

Quote of the Month #2
"My colleague who teaches a 3-4-5 special day class looked at the individual test scores for her students today. The two students who randomly filled in the bubble sheets, without opening the books, had the highest scores in her class. That would be the boy with the 56 IQ and the boy who is identified by his mother as possessed by the devil."
Anonymous teacher in California


Last month I promised photos of Ecuador. You can view some of my photos at the following URL:

I spent some time working with a lovely young girl in Puerto Rico last month and this month I'll be returning to work with a little boy. Puerto Rico is hot, humid, and gorgeous. If I take any photos, I'll post them too, but so far, there's been little time to be a tourist.

Clay Night
Clay night for November will be the 10th. No pizza this time, but it's free! so join us for a little Symbol Mastery from 6 pm to 7 pm!

Support Group
Support Group for November has been cancelled, because I will be out of town on the scheduled date.

Good Stuff to Read

Texting teenagers are proving 'more literate than ever before'
By Adam Fresco
FEARS that text messaging may have ruined the ability of teenagers to write properly have been shown to be unfounded after a two-year study revealed that youngsters are more literate than ever before. The most comprehensive comparison made of exam papers of the past 25 years has discovered that the writing ability of 16-year-olds has never been higher. The quality of writing has also improved, said Alf Massey, head of evaluation and validation at Cambridge Assessment, the department of Cambridge University that carried out the study.
Read the rest, and, like, chill out, dudes, at:,,591-1850922,00.html

Discovery of dyslexia gene could lead to earlier tests
By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
Scientists have announced that they have identified a gene for dyslexia, paving the way for the development of earlier tests for the reading disability.... Many children who are poor readers are mistakenly diagnosed as a dyslexic when their reading ability is not assessed alongside their intelligence. The sign of real dyslexia is a reading ability well below that for the child's age and intelligence. A comparison of the genetic make-up of 153 dyslexic families carried out at Yale School of Medicine in the US showed that a single gene could be responsible for up to one in five cases of the condition.
Read more about this at:

Today's Over-Tested Students Lack Genuine Spirit of Enquiry
Annette Dunlap - Charlotte Observer
One hundred forty. If I have figured correctly, that is how many school days remain until my youngest child graduates from high school. The event will not come soon enough. My anticipation has nothing to do with the excitement of seeing my child receive his diploma; it has everything to do with the fatigue of having children who attended public schools. Since my oldest child enrolled in kindergarten in 1986, public education has been transformed -- and not for the better. The major change that has frustrated me is the creation of a test-focused culture in the classroom. Teachers teach a test, not a subject. In-service training provides strategies to help students improve test scores. Precious instructional time is co-opted by teaching test-taking skills, and by giving benchmark and practice tests to keep students from freezing at the "main event."... No one wants to admit that testing has forced us to dumb down education and eliminated the initiative for young people to excel beyond a test score. But that is indeed what has taken place. Test scores only tell one part of the story of a person's capabilities. A high school principal once told me, "You don't grow the cow by weighing it." It's time to put away the scales and start improving the nutritional content of the feed.
Read the rest of this essay at:

Homework hell
By Ayelet Waldman
It was the night we wove an Iroquois cradle board out of natural fibrous materials that drove me over the edge. It was 9 p.m., an hour after bedtime, when Sophie suddenly remembered that in addition to a written report, her Native American history assignment required a visual presentation.
"It's OK, I can do it," she said. "I just need some hemp." Frankly, so did I. .... Eight-year-old Zeke routinely has an hour of homework a night. He's an interesting kid, one who's described as having a lot of "personality." He's the kind of kid who, left to his own devices, thinks it's funny to write "a Rottweiler" as the answer to every question on the homework page, even the math problems. Especially the math problems. Accordingly, either my husband or I have to sit next to him and insist that he read the directions in his homework packet, instead of riffing on the crazy soundtrack that runs in his head. School for Zeke is work, and by the end of a seven-hour workday, he's exhausted. But like a worker on a double shift, he has to keep going. When, halfway through kindergarten, we had to break it to him that this wasn't a one-year gig, that in fact he was looking at, conservatively, 17 more years of school, the expression on his face was one of deep, existential despair. That evening he calculated that the next time he could count on being really, truly happy was in 60 years, when he retires. His sister, however, is one of those cheerful Pollyanna types who finish their summer reading list before Memorial Day, and at 11 is already counting on getting at least one graduate degree. But even she hates homework.
Read the rest at:

Flatline NAEP Scores Show Failure of Test-Driven School Reform; "No Child Left Behind" Has Not Improved Academic Performance
Press Release - National Center for Fair & Open Testing
"The 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading and math scores show that high-stakes, punitive testing does not produce meaningful improvements in student achievement, contrary to the promises made by proponents of No Child Left Behind," said Monty Neill, Ed.D., co-director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), in response to today's release of the 2005 NAEP report. NAEP Reading scores were essentially unchanged from 2002 to 2005 at grade 4 and declined markedly at grade 8. Math scores did not increase at a significantly faster rate than in the 1990s, well before most high-stakes exams for elementary and middle school were put in place. The NAEP 2003-2005 data covers the period when the Bush Administration and Congress imposed testing with severe sanctions as a requirement for states to receive federal funding. While reading scores for Blacks and Hispanics rose in the 1990s at grade four, they have been flat since 2000. At grade eight, they have been flat since 1998. The math gains these groups made in the 1990s have tapered off. "The drill and kill curriculum that accompanies high-stakes, one-size-fits-all testing programs undermines rather than improves the quality of education," explained Dr. Neill. ""Intensified testing has especially hurt education for low-income, African American and Latino students, reinforcing the hard bigotry of inequality and segregation. Once again, independent data demonstrate that the nation cannot test its way to educational quality. It's time to abandon the failed test-and-punish quick fix and get on with the hard work of identifying the real causes of student learning problems, then addressing them effectively. Congress should follow the lead of the more than 60 national education, civil rights and religious organizations that have come together to call for an overall of this damaging federal law."
The multi-organizational statement calling for an overhaul of “No Child Left Behind” and other assessment reform materials are available at
National, free and reduced lunch eligible:
Reading: At grade 4: same score as in 2002, which dropped two points in 2003, enabling a "statistically significant" gain from 03 to 05 of 2 points. At grade 8, was decline of 2 points from 2002 to 2003, same score in 03 as in 05.
Math: Grade 4 – large 14 point gain from 00 to 03, but much slower 3-point gain from 03 to 05. Grade 8 – 6 point gain from 00 to 03, 3 point gain from 03 to 05.
Monty Neill, Ed.D.
Co-Executive Director
342 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02139
617-864-4810    fax 617-497-2224

Six Phonics Myths Dispelled
by Maryann Manning
No issue in the field of reading conjures more emotion than the teaching of phonics. So often I'm asked, "Do you believe in teaching phonics?" The question always surprises me; of course children must have knowledge about phonics in order to read.
However, no other aspect of reading instruction is more misunderstood by the public. It seems to me that six common misconceptions about phonics instruction appear over and over again in the popular press.
Find out what they are and what Dr. Manning has to say about them at:

Don't test well in school? Don't I know it!
By Beverly Beckham - Boston Globe
It was called the ''The 200 Club" and to be a member was simple: All you had to do was graduate at the bottom of your class. There were about 40 of us in this self-appointed, self-denigrating group in May 1964. I remember worrying that we would be called up to graduate in order of class rank. D's in geometry and algebra had landed me in this club, not my homeroom teacher's public prediction that I would never reach college -- and if ''miraculously" I did, I would flunk out in a semester. There were no MCAS exams in 1964. But there was, of course, labeling. Winners and losers. Doers and dreamers. Kids who were headed somewhere and kids who were barely scraping by. For the first six years of school, I had been one of the kids who was headed somewhere. Top of the class. Straight A's. Gold stars on all my papers. And then in seventh grade I entered a new school in a new town. And there I was, alone at the blackboard, unable to diagram a sentence or parse a verb or understand the simple rule that factor times factor equals product. Humiliation came daily, along with the underlying message that I lacked the essential knowledge of every other kid in my class. I didn't get gold stars anymore. My parents said it didn't matter. I knew it did. One voice, one test, one label can destroy a child.... some of the most important things -- patience, kindness, loyalty, curiosity, dependability, steadfastness, grit, wonder -- cannot be measured on an exam.
Read the rest of this essay at:

In case you haven't read about this yet
Lilly Issues Warning for Its Attention-Deficit Drug
Jeff Swiatek The Indianapolis Star (9/29/05)
Eli Lilly and Co. warned today that its attention-deficit drug Strattera can cause suicidal thoughts in a small percentage of children. The Indianapolis drug maker's warning comes after a review of data on patients who took the drug during clinical trials. The analysis showed that adults didn't appear to suffer from suicidal thoughts while taking the drug, the company said. The warning concerning children will be printed on the drug's label in a box - the most serious level for a label warning under FDA guidelines.
Read more about this at:<br>

Video games that get kids' attention, enhance learning
Benjamin Pimentel, Chronicle Staff Writer
Like many parents, Janet Herlihey tried her best to keep her kids away from video games.
She was particularly concerned about the potential harm to her two boys who have had problems focusing and controlling their emotions. "Why would this be good for kids who had a hard time concentrating?" said Herlihey, who lives in West Chester, Pa. "It doesn't make sense." She told her boys, Michael, 12, and Paul, 10: "Don't ever ask me, because you'll never get them. "But late last year, the boys did get to play video games -- and with the blessing of their parents. The Herliheys had decided to let their sons -- who show symptoms of attention-deficit disorder but have never been diagnosed -- try out a new treatment that uses video games to help children with attention problems.
Read the rest at:

We could have told them that...
Supportive 1st Grade Teachers Help Students Succeed, Study Finds

By Linda Jacobson - Education Week
Classroom teachers who give instructional and emotional support can improve academic outcomes for 1st graders who are considered at risk for school failure, concludes a University of Virginia study released Sept. 14. For example, children whose mothers had less than a college degree achieved at the same level as children with more highly educated mothers when they were placed in 1st grade classrooms where the instruction was focused and direct and the teacher provided ongoing feedback to the students about their progress. But if these socioeconomically at-risk students did not receive this kind of instructional attention, they scored lower on achievement measures than their peers. The same pattern held true for children described by the researchers as “functionally at-risk,” meaning that they displayed behavioral, social, and/or academic problems in kindergarten.
Well, duh - but read the rest at:


That's it for this month. I've been in and out of the country a lot in recent months, but please remember that I'm here to help. If you need my help while I'm out of the country, please send an email to and I'll get back to you as quickly as possible.

Next Issue of Singular Minds: Early December, 2005

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