Hurtful Words

Those involved in special education already relate to the hurt caused by name-calling or references to special needs individuals. Here is a blog posting that explains why it is wrong to use the “R word.”

What Really Happens When You Use the R Word

(or copy the link below into your browser’s address bar)

The same reasoning applies to “idiot” and many other derogatory words and terms. Choose your words carefully.


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A New MOOC: Digital Learning Transition (Spr. 2014) – Course

I’m back! It has been a while since I posted anything at all, and I felt that the New Year was a good time to start things rolling again. As some of you know, I am currently living on the island of St. Martin, in the Dutch half, a fledgling country called Sint Maarten. I arrived here because of my husband’s job at the American University of the Caribbean Medical School, but I’m finding a lot to learn about education here–especially special education, where my teaching heart has always resided. I’m learning a great deal about how a young country is developing its own educational system, and I will post my observations on St. Maarten’s progress in the months to come. There are many positive things happening here.

But today’s post is not about St. Maarten, the Caribbean, or physical schools. Instead, I wanted to share with you a site that may be of interest to you, especially since it is a MOOC course on digital learning. You can sign up for the course at the organization’s web page. Here is the site:

And here is the course information page:

Digital Learning Transition (Spr. 2014) – Course.

Wishing all my readers a happy and prosperous 2014!


Posted in Conferences and Publications, Digital Education, Education News, Online Education, Professional Development, Teaching | Leave a comment

Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers

As educators, we have learned to accept more than just words to illustrate students’ understanding. For many students, non-literary art forms are the most effective means of communication. Photography is one of these arts.
This site, the Weekly Photo Challenge at, offers photographers–from beginner to professional–ideas and challenges for expression using the view through a camera lens. It also offers fine examples of interpretation, which can challenge the cognitive development of students as well as adults. Cognitive development is not just about words, but also about ideas and concepts. Photography offers this “mind-expanding tool” for those individuals who have trouble with words. This blog site offers excellent challenges to young through old…


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Dangerous Speakers | Teacher Talk (Dyslexia and other Reading Disabilities)

Good educators are always seeking new information–whether that information is to learn better ways of serving their students, learn more about a topic or technique, follow how the latest research-based techniques are working elsewhere, etc. To good educators, an 8-hour workday and a five-day workweek are wistful bucket-list items for some future that never seems to arrive.

A favorite way to learn when conferences are few and far between are one- or two-hour presentations that are presented by experts. The problem, I have found, is that many people claim to be experts in fields in which they have no legitimate claims to back up the expertise. Such people–especially when they can produce no credentials to back up their claims–often lead the audiences astray, mainly because they, as the presenters, know less about a topic than some people attending the presentation who would never dream of calling themselves experts. Presentations–whether to an audience of professional educators, pre-service educators, or (especially) parents–must present accurate information.

The other day, I posted this blog on another site. There are some spelling errors, which I’m never happy about, but my computer and spelling are not the concern of this post. What is of concern to me is perpetuation of misinformation and disinformation related to education in general, but very specifically to special education, which has taken a beating globally because of what I can only call world-wide fiscal difficulties. It is always the neediest children from whom the most promising programs are taken away. And special education–in this case, the very specific topic of dyslexia Wha–has been hijacked and misconstrued by persons who believe that a non-programmatic class or two, or a “swing through the Caribbean” gives them the “expertise” to pass on to others their own confused notions that usually are not based on an historical perspective or serious research on a topic.

[BTW, click over to this little video on what a person with dyslexia might see while reading:]

Link over to my other blog, below, in which I describe a seminar on dyslexia presented by a person whom my neighbor labeled a charlatan. We went together–he the parent of a diagnosed dyslexic child and, like his child, afflicted with dyslexia; me, a duly trained reading specialist and learning disabilities specialist, as well as an experienced educator of emotionally disturbed children, a trained educational researcher, and the earner of the title Doctor of Educational Psychology. I have always been reluctant to label myself as an expert in dyslexia and learning disabilities; if anything, I have a tendency to consider myself an expert in the education of moderately to severe emotional disturbed children (which includes expertise in classroom management). Yet I completed in-depth academic study in both reading disabilities in particular and learning disabilities in general that would put many modern programs to shame, and that are the core elements for academic advance for the emotionally disturbed child. Part of my original teacher training–all done at the postbachaloriate level–was the importance of identifying solid researcher, and the greater importance of following the (academically recognized) newest research findings in the field of interest. This is what convinced me to study for my doctorate, where I added intense study of cognition and cognitive theory, cultural bases of education, language disabilities that complement the study of both reading disabilities and specific learning disabilities, self-concept versus self-esteem as elements of both special education and general education, the influence of visual disabilities on children’s learning, and much mush more. Because of the relationships and inter-relationships among all these areas, as well as influences of environment, parental and community support. Still, even after earning my doctorate, I had trouble calling myself an expert. Instead, I continued to see myself as a learner as well as a teacher. I continue to learn from true and recognized experts both directly through classes and conference attendance, and personal communications with academically and professionally recognized experts. It has been my ecological and eclectic view on education that has kept me from calling myself an expert in the education of special needs and culturally diverse children. This one “seminar” aimed at the topic of dyslexia among students of Caribbean countries that has made me realize that I truly am an expert in special education. But read on for what I consider a horror story. Decide for yourselves who is an expert and who is not, even if it is a mere comparison between a speaker’s claims and my publically available academic credntials, as a trainer and consultant, as a graduate education professor, and personal research in fields related to the teaching of unique individuals, whether K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate learners, and non-educational audiences of parentts and student support personnel. If enough of you want to see my credentials, I would be delighted to share my transcripts and my curriculum vitae. Then you can decide if, as this one speaker has helped me define myself, an expert with a capital E.

Dangerous Speakers | Teacher Talk. , if the link does not work correctly, or your computer would rather have the complete site address)

Respectfully submitted,

Eleanore Miller, Ed.D.


Posted in Diversity in education, Dyslexia, Education, Fixing Education, Kids Reading, Learning Disabilities, Parental Involvement, Pedagogy, Professional Development, Reading, Reading Disabilities, Special Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Kids are Reading, 2013

We have all heard this: It is less important what a child reads than that the child reads. However, we also want children to read books that carry a message. When a child has trouble choosing a book–especially one for an independent reading assignment for school–we want to offer some guidance toward a book that will be acceptable and worthwhile, as well as enjoyable.

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or an individual interested in guiding young people’s reading choices, one thing you cannot ignore is the reasoning kids employ in choosing a particular book to read, especially for independent reading assignments for school. Many kids read books that are recommended by friends, especially when they share an interest in a topic such as sports or hobbies. However, kids often find that they have some interests that differ from those of their friends, especially as they grow older. For example, one friend may have an interest in historical novels while another is interested in futuristic themes such as those found in science fiction. Some friends enjoy mysteries or books classified as horror. Still other friends might enjoy biographies, especially of people in a particular area (science, invention, social causes, etc.). In these cases, friends can be helpful in recommending books they enjoy, but the student may not be interested in the same topics or types of books. Thus, when a student needs to choose a book for a book report, he or she may find that friends’ suggestions are less helpful. 

Renaissance Learning has released a report on the reasons kids give for selecting independent reading materials, including recommendations by family members and librarians. Often, these are individuals who either know the young person’s leanings or are able to ask the questions that can narrow the range of topics or  types of stories that may engage the particular youth.  The Renaissance Learning website can be helpful to anyone who needs ideas for how to recommend independent reading materials by providing information on how many young people choose their books.

The website also addresses some Common Core State Standards related to reading. Especially helpful might be the links to lists of Caldecott and Newbery Award titles. I often use these award lists (as well as others) to help select books for teaching social skills of behaviorally challenged students, as well as for use as exemplars in discussing writing development and how to read a book for analysis (such as a book report). When I am at a loss for an independent reading recommendation, especially  if a school or youth librarian is not available, the awards lists pretty much guarantee that the book is wholesome, well-written, and interesting. What I have found about books that are recognized by Caldecott and Newbery, as well as Coretta Scott King, Geisel, and other awards, is that most winners and honorary mentions can hold the interest of an adult reader as well as that of a child.

A good list of children’s book awards can be found at


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What Would I Have Done?

It has been quite a while since I posted to this site.  Mostly, this is because I was in the process of moving from Los Angeles to the Caribbean island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten.  It has two names because this entire island, which would fit neatly within the borders of Los Angeles with plenty of elbow room, is divided into two countries: the French St. Martin, and the Dutch Sint Maarten.  My husband and I have been here three weeks, leasing a furnished  condo and waiting for our stuff to arrive, including our computers which we packed for shipping so that we could carry on our two cats (the dog had to travel as cargo). Because of uneven electrical current, the charger for my tablet was blown out, despite being plugged into a surge protector.  Thus, my communication with the outside world was limited until I broke down and purchased another laptop late last week.  Thank goodness it is so beautiful and “laid back” here, or I probably would have had a melt-down.

But this post is not about the island or the moving experience.  Instead, I am writing because I am uncomfortable with commentary I observed on Facebook that involves Middle Eastern student behavior and a professor’s response.

The professor indicated that a student suggested that a few Arabic examples be provided.  It was not clear from the post whether this was merely a suggestion or if the exchange took the form of a demand (or something in between).  The professor’s response indicated that she is an American, the class was being taught at an American university, and that all examples would be American.  The flurry of responses to this anecdote ranged from American indignation over the request to a suggestion that foreign students might be supported by American tax dollars.  In between were comments regarding attitudes of Middle Eastern students to support for the professor’s position.

Normally, I would have read the interactions, possibly made an inane comment, and moved on.  However, the subject and tone of the anecdote as well as several of the responses caught me off-guard, mostly because I glimpsed a new side to two people who participated in this exchange, both of whom are university professors who had been either a fellow student or my instructor.  After re-reading the thread several times, I began to question what my response would have been under the same circumstances.

A little personal background first.  My training and mind-set is special needs students.  I taught at the K-12 level for over 13 years, mostly special education classes, and always at what might be included as part of the middle school level.  Most of the classes were culturally and economically diverse, and each student had a unique cluster of academic and social weaknesses and strengths.  Often, the best way to convey a teaching concept was to give an example from the student’s personal experience.

During the 10 years that I spent as a programmer of corporate financial systems and reports in the greater New York City area, I worked with individuals from all corners of the world.  To be honest, in the corporate world, I often “classified” individuals’ behaviors in terms of the cultural group they represented, and only after getting to know the person did I “unclassify” into a unique group of one–the individual.  I never do this with students, so it came as a surprise to me when I discovered I did this with adults.  This led to a conscious modification to the way I deal with adults whose culture significantly differs from mine.  Good thing, because I am once again in an environment in which it is I who is being classified (as I was when starting as an immigrant in an American school system at the age of 5).  These experiences have helped shape my attitudes and opinions.

There is so much that many of us do not know, but as I read the thread of posts I marveled at the singular tone of the respondents.  One response speculated that the student who asked the question was probably male based on his/her military experience in the Middle East.  (As it turns out, the student was female.)  Someone else expressed an opinion about the wealth of the student’s family and a subsequent expectation of faculty accommodation.

Yet another comment indicated that the US is probably footing the bill for foreign university students.  When I first started teaching at the post-secondary level, I had no idea how international students pay for their education.  I was lucky enough to be befriended by the head of international student recruitment, who educated me about this.  International students must pay tuition up front and provide documentation indicating that they can support themselves financially to meet basic needs, such as food and housing.  These students do not qualify for US education loans (neither federally subsidized nor private), and are not allowed to seek employment, except for a very small number of university student positions available solely to international students.  These are very restrictive and, typically, provided for foreign students through endowments by non-university and non-government organizations.  Monies earned from such positions would barely cover non-veterinary expenses for my two cats and small dog.  US tax dollars do not support international students in any way.

Yadda yadda yadda. Lots of pro-America or cautiously anti-foreigner remarks in the thread.

But back to the original question: how would I have reacted within the scenario of a foreign student suggesting (or stating or demanding?) that a few examples be provided that addressed the student’s culture?  The answer: I probably would have asked the student to provide me with an example of what s/he meant, especially since it is not clear whether the student was asking for a language change or a cultural example.  Clearly, I would not be able to provide an example in Farsi without a translation from the student, and I lack enough background in the student’s culture so that I would need help in creating a meaningful example.  Why would I do this? Because I believe in diversity and what all students–regardless of academic level–can learn about other cultures.  Because I personally would learn something new, perhaps about a different world view or a business or cultural activity that is unique to another part of the world.  Because–well, because I am always ready to broaden perspectives of my students and myself.

To me, education should not be restricted to teaching basic skills or strictly controlled (or recommended) class content.  Education encompasses the whole person who must function effectively in an increasingly diverse world.  For me, providing an example outside the norm is wholistically educational.  Perhaps I am old-fashioned about my attitudes toward education… or perhaps my attitudes toward education are too liberal or progressive…



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Had to share this beautiful poetry…

Originally posted on elketeaches:

View original

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NUTN Network 2013: Call for Presentations | Virtual School Meanderings

Interested in sharing your work?  Check out the NUTN Network 2013 conference in Albuquerque, NM.  Proposals due May 3; presenter notifications by May 31; presenter acceptance due June 21.  Best wishes for successful proposal acceptance!

NUTN Network 2013: Call for Presentations | Virtual School Meanderings.



Posted in Conferences and Publications, Online Education, Post-secondary education, Professional Development | Leave a comment

New College Scorecard | Blog

Today the College Scorecard was initiated by the U.S. Department of Education.  The intent is to give students and parents a tool for deciding on colleges through an interactive tool that allows exploration of various educational options, including costs, graduation rate, loan default rate, average amount borrowed, and employment.

Obama Administration Launches College Scorecard | Blog.




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Seminar: Using Data: Improvement Planning at the School and District Level to Improve Achievement

Here is some information just received this in a newsletter from the U.S. Department of Education.    This webinar may be of particular interest to researchers and education leadership.  It is sponsored by WestEd, which usually has very high quality education-related resources.

Weekly E-Newsletter | February 11, 2013


School Turnaround Learning Community



This week, we offer two new resources on Increased Learning Time and invite you to the February 20, 2013 webinar on Using Data.


Using Data: Improvement Planning at the School and District Level to Improve Achievement

Presenters: Rendel Josserand, Deputy Chief of Schools, and Angel Johnson, Principal; Chicago Public Schools

The presentation will center on how to use data to inform school improvement planning, and perhaps more importantly, outline a system to manage all aspects of school improvement at the department, school, and district levels. This seamless support structure is simple, yet very powerful, and is being used in urban, suburban, and rural districts with equal effectiveness. Schools often fail in their improvement efforts, not because they don’t plan well, but because they don’t manage their plan’s execution. Join us to see one simple and time effective method that has supported schools to achieve dramatic student achievement growth.

To sign up for the webinar, please use the “register now” link in the right sidebar.

Featured Resources: Increased Learning Time

Resource #1: ELT: Expanding and Enriching Learning Time for All

This policy brief provides concrete strategies to support expanded learning time in schools, such as schools forming partnerships with community organizations to create a cohesive learning day that both supports a longer school day and meets the needs of working parents. Policy makers are encouraged to support initiatives not only to extend the school day or year, but also to expand the way students learn through enrichments and diverse activities tailored to each school’s needs. The brief also describes the core elements of the Expanded Learning Time / New York City initiative and discusses lessons learned from the first year of its implementation in 10 New York City schools.

Source: The After School Cooperation (TASC)


Expanded Learning Time in Action: Initiatives in High-Poverty and High-Minority Schools and Districts

Resource #2: Expanded Learning Time in Action: Initiatives in High-Poverty and High-Minority Schools and Districts 

This report examines the revision of school calendars in high-poverty and high-minority schools and districts, including addition of learning time as well as creative strategies to use learning time differently. It identifies more than 300 initiatives implemented between 1991 and 2007 in high-poverty and high-minority schools across 30 states, and offers additional snapshots of school and district initiatives that incorporate additional learning time into the school calendar.

Source: Elena Rocha


ELT: Expanding and Enriching Learning Time for All

Using the Resources Together

These resources provide a basic overview of increased learning time (ILT) programs for users from all stakeholder groups. The policy brief explains the importance of these programs, and highlights a New York City initiative to describe how such a program might be implemented. The second report provides a more in-depth look at the way that ILT programs can be beneficial, particularly to the most traditionally underserved student populations, and lays out components of successful ILT initiatives to illustrate how they achieve this impact. These resources should be helpful for anyone looking to expand their understanding of the components and potential impact of ILT programs.

Have a great week!



Using Data: Improvement Planning at the School and District Level to Improve Achievement

February 20, 4:00 pm (ET)




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The School Turnaround Learning Community provides states and districts with easy online access to resources and networking that enables them to support schools more effectively.


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