Singular Minds
June 1, 2005 • Volume I, Issue 10
Prolinguistica Dyslexia Correction Center
Laura Zink de Diaz

Quote of the Month
"We're, at best, harnessing the creative capacities of 30 to 40 percent of our workforce, and I think no more than maybe 20 to 30 percent of those people's creative faculties -- because most of us are bored. The real nexus of competition in the future will be those communities that engage much more of that creative energy."
Richard Florida, author of Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent, as quoted in an interview with Lakshmi Chaudhry , 5-31-05 (


Exciting Stuff!
Well, at least for me...
I've been asked to travel to South America to do a correction program in Spanish with a 16 year old boy in Colombia. While I'm there I will probably present a talk on dyslexia correction at a local school, and I'm communicating with another family in the same city who may ask me to stay longer to work with their son after the first program is complete. That would convert my return date into a question mark, so rather than to create confusion, both the Support Group and Clay Clinic for June have been cancelled. We'll get back on track in July. Watch for photos of the tropics on the website next month!!

Good Stuff to Read
You'll notice that a lot of articles come from today. One reason for this is that many on-line newspapers now routinely charge you to read an article that's over two weeks old. I check my links before sending you this newsletter. If a link is broken or leads to an article that's no longer free, I check Susan's website, and often it's there. Thank you, Susan!

The Fun They Had
Isaac Asimov
This short story was published in 1951. It depicts your child's life tomorrow. Asimov received more requests for anthologization of this story than any other.

Study: Keep cola, schoolkids apart
Less than a can can hurt learning
Bill Hendrick
First-graders shouldn't be allowed to drink caffeinated colas during school because just a few ounces can make them rowdy and inhibit concentration, according to a study released Monday at the American Psychiatric Association's 158th annual meeting in Atlanta....
Behavioral problems were rated as 432 percent worse on days when the first-graders consumed caffeinated colas than when they drank caffeine-free soda, Hirsch said.
Read the rest - please! at:

Odds Stacked Against Pleasure Reading
With high-stakes standardized testing driving curriculum and teachers increasingly required to use scripted lesson plans, what is getting lost for many teachers is the freedom to allow students to explore books of their choosing -- and the time to explore the meaning, the educators say. And many students, especially in high school, simply have no time to read what they want. Read the rest at:

You Can See Your Kids' WASL Test Now!
Press Release
According to FERPA, parents have the right to view their children’s completed WASL tests before and after scoring. This right has been denied by the state. A Richland parent and member of Mothers Against WASL, De Anna Winterrose, has gained permission to view her children’s completed Washington Assessment of Student Learning tests. Previously, the State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction had denied parents the right to view the state administered test. However, as Ms. Winterrose pointed out to school officials in Richland, federal law supersedes state policy. Read the press release from Mothers Against WASL at:

Fourth Grader Suspended for Not Finishing WASL
Press Release
An Aberdeen School District 4th grader has been suspended from school for 5 days, following what the principal described as “blatant defiance and insubordination.” According to the student’s mother, Amanda Wolfe, her son did not understand how to respond the WASL writing topic. Ms. Wolfe was contacted by the school principal, with a request that she come to the school and direct her son to answer the question. According to Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction policy and RCW 28A.635.040, it is unlawful to “directly or indirectly assist a person to answer any question.” By interfering with the testing process and directing the student on “six separate occasions” to answer the specific question, school staff violated this law.
Read the rest of this bizarre case of administrative WASL hysteria at:

You want Data? - We got Data.
Letter to the Editor

Last fall, a widely quoted report, Reading at Risk, announced that reading was in a decline in the US, and the decline was especially serious among young people. In my letter in the School Library Journal (November, 2004), I argued that this “decline” was probably not real. Recent evidence confirms this and even suggests that teenagers in the US, as a group, are very heavy readers.
In January, 2005, The Gallup organization asked 1078 teenagers, ages 13-17, about the books they read for pleasure over the last six months: 82% said they had read at least one book.
Reading at Risk informed us only about book reading over a year, which should be more than reading over six months: In 2002, 57% of the public read at least one book during the last year, down from 61% in 1992
and 86% in 1985.
Current teenagers thus report more reading than the general public in 2002, in 1992, and even in 1946 (66% for the last six months, 71% for the last year). The 82% reported by teenagers for six months is probably
higher than the 86% reported by the public for a full year in 1985. Also, teenagers in the US report more reading than adults in Sweden, the best-read country in Europe: 72% of adults in Sweden said they had read
at least one book during the last year.
The main focus of Reading at Risk was not general reading, but “literature.” Today’s teenagers are reading good books. The most popular include Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and To Kill a Mockingbird.
S Krashen 5/10/05 in letter to editor, School Library Journal

Do parents matter?
Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt
It's who you are — rather than what you do — that makes the biggest difference in the development of children. The U.S. Department of Education recently undertook a monumental project called the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which tracks the progress of more than 20,000 American schoolchildren from kindergarten through the fifth grade.... Culture cramming may be a foundational belief of modern parenting but, according to the data, it doesn't improve early childhood test scores. Frequent museum visits would seem to be no more productive than trips to the grocery store. Watching TV, meanwhile, doesn't turn a child's brain into mush after all; nor does the presence of a home computer turn a child into Einstein.
Read the rest at:
As you read this and feel inadequate, keep in mind my mother's warning: "There's the lie, the damned lie, and the statistic." We are enamored of data and statistics, but we need to view the interpretation of statistical data with a humongous dose of skepticism and common sense. Statistics are all about probability, about the performance of groups. AND, the interpretation of data is subject to ideological spin. Statistics can tell you about trends, but not necessarily a lot about individuals.

SAT Essay Test Rewards Length and Ignores Errors
Michael Winerip - New York Times
Dr. Les Perelman is one of the directors of undergraduate writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He fears that the new 25-minute SAT essay test that ... is actually teaching high school students terrible writing habits. "It appeared to me that regardless of what a student wrote, the longer the essay, the higher the score," Dr. Perelman said. In the next weeks, Dr. Perelman studied every graded sample SAT essay that the College Board made public. He looked at the 15 samples in the ScoreWrite book that the College Board distributed to high schools nationwide to prepare students for the new writing section. He reviewed the 23 graded essays on the College Board Web site meant as a guide for students and the 16 writing "anchor" samples the College Board used to train graders to properly mark essays. He was stunned by how complete the correlation was between length and score. "I have never found a quantifiable predictor in 25 years of grading that was anywhere near as strong as this one," he said. "If you just graded them based on length without ever reading them, you'd be right over 90 percent of the time." The shortest essays, typically 100 words, got the lowest grade of one. The longest, about 400 words, got the top grade of six. In between, there was virtually a direct match between length and grade. He was also struck by all the factual errors in even the top essays. Read more about this at:
Mass scoring of essays is tricky business. When people score them, they burn out quickly which reduces validity and reliability. If a computer scores them, meaning becomes secondary to structure. A computer only scans for sentence patterns and predictable transitional words. You can write nearly anything and as long as you remember to include a transition word in the first sentence of each paragraph the computer will think it's fine. It's unlikely that test companies will admit that,
but smart students have already figured it out (See the high scoring 8-paragraph practice essay in the February issue of this e-newsletter). Longer has never meant better, but writing a long rambling essay will always get you a better grade from teachers who grade by the pound, and from a computer. I've read complaints about the quality of student writing that date back to the l890s, and yet somehow the nation has managed to muddle through. Hmmm... could it be that as people mature, have wider experience and understanding, and more opportunities to practice, they get better?
There's another interesting article on the SAT Writing test called, Failing Grade, by Scott Jaschik (Inside Higher Ed), which, if you're interested in this issue, can be found here:

Maybe Preschool Is the Problem
By Jennifer Steinhauer
IF six out of every 1,000 preschool children are asked to pack up their
Goldfish crackers and never return to nursery school - expelled at the
tender age of 4 - whose fault is that? "Two-career families" - code words for working mothers - would be the easiest target, followed by violent cartoons or some electronic toy. But maybe, some education experts say, the problems stem from preschool itself.... "The notion of standards are coming down almost to the embryo," said Adele Brodkin, a psychologist and child development consultant. "We are not allowing normal, creative, interactive play. We are wanting kids to sit down and write their names at 3 and do rote tasks that are extremely boring at a young age."
Read more on this at:

New Resource
There's now a Spanish language version of the PDCC website up and running. You can reach it by visiting PDCC's home page ( and clicking on the link, ¿Quieres leer esto en español? or by going directly to the page ( So if you know any people who'd like to read about dyslexia and correction in Spanish, please direct them to the site!

Thanks, and have a great month!

Next Issue of Singular Minds: July 1, 2005 (approximately!)

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