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Neurologist/Teacher/Grad School Ed faculty/Author

REFERENCES My analysis of

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My analysis of neuroscience research that is the source of my writing is not based on paraphrasing individual articles so I cannot provide just one reference regarding the benefits of activating executive functions. These are some of the many that yield some of that large area of neuroscience and cognitive science research and theory

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. B.J. Casey, et al. August 2011. Nov 7 Sci Am Mind

Durstewitz, et. al., 2010). Durstewitz, D., Vittoz, N., Floresco, S., and
Seamans, J. (2010) Abrupt transitions between prefrontal neural ensemble states
accompany behavioral transitions during rule learning. Neuron, 66, 438-48.

Shaw et. al., (2006) Shaw, P., Greenstein, D., Lerch, J., Clasen, L., Lenroot, R., Gotay, N., Evans, A., Rappoport, J., and Giedd, J. (2006) Intellectual ability and cortical development in
children and adolescents. Nature 440, 676-679

Bialystok, E. (2009). Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 12 (1):3-11. Cambridge University Press. Kaushanskaya, M., & Marian, V. (2007). Age-of-acquisition effects in the development of a bilingual advantage for word learning. Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Cascadilla Press; Somerville, MA.

Cowan, N. and Morey, C. (2006). Visual working memory depends on attentional filtering, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10(4): 1399-141.

Eastwood, J., Frischen, A., Fenske, M., and Smilek, D. (2012). The Unengaged Mind: Defining Boredom in Terms of Attention Perspectives on Psychological Science. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(5): 482-495.

Nett, U., Hall, N., and Frenzel, A. (2012). Metacognitive Strategies and Test Performance: An Experience Sampling Analysis of Students’ Learning Behavior, Education Research International, Volume 2012. Article ID 958319.

Parasuraman, R., Jiang, Y., (2011). Individual differences in cognition, affect, and performance: Behavioral, neuroimaging, and molecular genetic approaches, NeuroImage.

Blair C, and Razza RP. (2007). Relating effortful control, executive function, and false belief understanding to emerging math and literacy ability in kindergarten. Child Development. 78(2):647-63.

Diamond, A., et al. (2007) Preschool Program Improves Cognitive Control. Science Nov 30: 1378-1388

Willis, J.A. (2007). Neuroscience of Joyful Learning Educational Leadership, Journal of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (2007). Vol 64.

Neurologist/Teacher/Grad School Ed faculty/Author

Thanks for your comments. I

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Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your concern. I have never indicated my support of nor neuroscience evidence regarding the brain benefits of standardized testing of any kind - CCSS included. What I do support is the stated goal of the CCSS program of building students' conceptual, critical, and creative thinking. Indeed I share your concern about the duress of the standardized testing that will be part of the CCSS program. The goal of my articles is to help mitigate the negative impact of this test stress - NOT to support the testing.
Keep igniting!

Community Manager at Edutopia

I have to say that my read of

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I have to say that my read of Dr. Willis's blog post was very different. What I read was information to help teachers reduce their students' stress stemming from the transition to Common Core by explaining where the stress comes from and how to help.

For many teachers, parents, and students, Common Core is their new reality, and they need resources to navigate the transition. That's the whole point of the Common Core in Action series; not to endorse CCSS but to point to specific lesson ideas and to help teachers innovate within the standards.

@Jocelyn Slack Learning

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@Jocelyn Slack
Learning should be JOYFUL for 2nd graders, NOT "stressful." Stress is something that ADULTS, with their 'fully-developed executive functions,' need to be able to deal with. It is particularly counterproductive at a young age and not something we should be expecting small children to experience in the classroom.

I have grave concerns that a

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I have grave concerns that a neurologist and educator would advocate for a set of standards that would cause a fight/flight/freeze response from students. I am not certain where the idea that children need to be TAUGHT to think critically has come from. Children spend the first five years of their lives immersed in critical thinking. They learn language, how to stand-up, walk, crawl and run. They learn to identify thousands of objects around them and what those objects are used for and how they relate to them and the world around them. Any parent of a three year old will tell you that their child's favorite word is "Why?". They test negative space (think outlet covers) and test their own theories of gravity. They build with blocks and sand and boxes and tupperware. The entire arc of their first five years is a grand experiment in understanding our world and they do all of this without the help of the CCS. It is not until we enroll them in school that the adults in their lives seem to believe that they are no longer have the necessary skills to learn.
I want my children to have a joyous experience with learning, to have many aha moments of their own design. I want to hear them laugh, to create, to grow and to learn what they find interesting about the world around them.
There is much talk about raising the stakes and that parents deserve a choice in their child's education. I choose to have my child's prefrontal cortex stimulated by joyous, developmentally appropriate material, not to have them learn coping skill so they can overcome their desire to flee their education.


Thank you for responding, Dr

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Thank you for responding, Dr Willis. I hope you can address some of my very grave concerns about your report here. You are presenting evidence here that children's mental function may actually be damaged by their experiences with this mandated experiment, and you dismiss those concerns much too lightly.

Please, can you reference some peer-reviewed publications that show a correlation between Common Core instruction and assessment, and building neural pathways that increase executive function?

Also, I've been a constructivist educator for several decades and your formulation about that is very incorrect. Children don't construct meaning under duress, in response to essay prompts. I wonder if you might have been misled about the actual substance of the CCSS documents and assessments?

Student's previous academic success doesn't necessarily indicate rote memorization and parroting, either. The spirit of John Dewey is still very much alive among American educators.

Neurologist/Teacher/Grad School Ed faculty/Author

I rarely give references to

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I rarely give references to the neuroscience research I review pertinent to the blogs I write due to the limitations in length and character of our blogs that are focused on providing information and stimulating dialogue. The information supporting my correlations – and neuroscience research can only provide correlations, never proof for or against any classroom strategy or phenomenon, can be found through my website. Under publications you find over 60 articles I’ve written for academic journals with references. The same is true for my books, which are highly referenced.

Thank you for taking the time to write and provide me this opportunity to clarify the non-referenced nature of most of my blogs.


Dr. Willis has established no

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Dr. Willis has established no connection whatsoever between "brain-based learning" and the Common core.

She describes children's "profound emotional reactions including anger, hostility, retribution (such as false accusations of teacher misconduct) and more subtle but equally disturbing behavioral changes of withdrawn participation and effort, depression, and more sick-day absences."

But then, she refuses to process the havoc she and her Common Core colleagues have wrought on real children's actual mental functioning. She suggests a remedy for teachers "would be to design new instructional or assessment characteristics that parallel the macro and cognitive objectives of the CCSS."

The evidence Willis dismisses is heartbreaking and infuriating. Instead of creative engagement, she reports that "previous high achievers are showing fight/flight/freeze stress responses when tested with single-response questions." Willis is immediately certain this high stress and actual loss of mental function in the real, previously successful children must be due to defects in their previous education, like rote memorization and parroting. In ignorance of actual child development, she caricatures all non-CC pedagogy as nothing but teacher-centered lecturing.

She responds by expounding on bizarre new "brain-based" theories . She garbles a few phrases from constructivist learning theory to add false legitimacy to her truly indefensible fabrications. She asserts, with no evidence, "The CCSS goals support cognitive actions that are the executive functions for a global economy."

There is no evidence WHATSOEVER that the Common Core's intrusive attack on childhood itself will promote "building strong neural networks of executive functions." The neural networks of human development are far beyond any crude "executive functioning" model.

Education Specialist

We have a choice as

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We have a choice as educators, we can be fellow human beings and call our students' attention to the fact that we will never judge our students on the basis of a standardized test. We can further empathize by giving them an A for the day simply for complying with ANOTHER test, actually we should probably give them a B for not being as smart or as self-advocating as their colleagues who refused to come to school on a day which was not educating them but rather measuring them by someone's idea of where they should be i.e. measured against CCSS.

Second grade teacher

Enjoyed reading your blog. I

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Enjoyed reading your blog. I never realized that as a teacher I am not the only person feeling the stress of the common core. i have to remeber that my students are also making an adjustment in their learning which can be very stressful.

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