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Are Hybrid Classrooms Working?

Apr-26, 2021

A girl wearing a facemask sitting at her home desk with the laptop open

Since the beginning of the school year, schools have been experimenting with the hybrid classroom model in an effort to ease students back into the classroom. In a hybrid classroom, some of the attendees are in-person while others are logged in via computer at home. The hybrid classroom, first used in university lecture halls, has been turned to as the solution to help students struggling with distance learning. In a hybrid model, students get face-to-face time with teachers as well as peer interaction. But the hybrid model is not without its criticisms.

First we must ask: how are students and teachers coping with hybrid classrooms? With a lot of difficulty. It's being described as the best of both worlds and the worst of both worlds, at the same time. The whole point of hybrid learning is to ensure some face-to-face time with a teacher. But one teacher in a classroom with both in-person and over-the-computer students? This is splitting the teacher's focus and neither set of children is getting the kind of attention they need. Many parents have reported being dissatisfied with the level of engagement their kids are getting during the school day. And in many districts, kids are coming to school only to sit on the computer and continue their learning.

How can parents gain the benefits of sending their kids back to school without the shortcomings of the current model? Best Brains parents have always found tremendous success for their kids by supplementing their education with our weekly classes with guarantee 1-on-1 instruction from real teachers. Since Best Brains is designed to reinforce and broaden knowledge of concepts learn in school, enrolling in Best Brains means that your child will always receive direct communication with a qualified instructor and the time necessary to ask questions, demonstrate ability, and improve skills.

Our centers are opening back up and our teachers are ready to return to face-to-face instruction. Utilizing sanitizing protocols, smaller class sizes and PPE for our staff allows us to safely welcome our kids back to our tables. Our entire business went online back in March 2020 with great success. We will continue to host weekly online classes for up to 3 students in a room guaranteeing that students get the personalized attention they need not matter where they attend class. We have discussed before what needs to be done to make distance learning effective. These are the tactics we have employed in our virtual classrooms to keep kids on track. Now we can provide the same in-person instruction we were known for pre-pandemic as well.

With the Best Brains model, there is no learning curve. We have been carrying on business as usual and business augmented. If you are looking for the 1-on-1 attention needed to make the hybrid classroom work best for your child, consider signing up for Best Brains to ensure they are receiving the highest quality education either in-person or online.

Tags COVID-19

Singapore Math Pros and Cons

Apr-12, 2021

An Asian-American girl holds a pencil and works on homework in her room.

Common Core standards rocked the education world when they were implemented in the early 2010's. Parents especially expressed difficultly in learning new ways to compute and to gain math skills that deviated greatly from the kind of math they'd grown up doing.

Compared to other disciplines, the field of educational studies is a young one. While teaching has been a fundamental aspect of the human experience since the beginning of time, the study of how we learn and acquire knowledge is only a couple centuries old. Therefor there is a lot of room to innovate, experiment and test.

STEM fields, particularly math, have a lot of public discourse surrounding them because of how fundamental STEM is to keeping our modern world running. Improving children's scores in STEM and retaining their interest will be key to producing a global workforce that can meet the challenges of 21st century life.

Currently Singapore's students top worldwide rankings for education while the US sits at 27th place. (Canada sits at a respectable 7th place, way to go!) And a lot of people are looking at the curriculum in Singapore as a potential reason why they're number 1. The Math curriculum in Singapore was first developed in 1982 called Primary Mathematics. In the late 90's, an American company began selling textbooks based on the Primary Mathematics and the "Singapore Math Method" began to grown in popularity.

How does the Singapore Method work?

Singapore Math is largely logic-based. That is, it focuses on problem solving as the key to math understanding. The three-step learning model is as follows:

  • Concrete: Manipulatives like number blocks and other physical representations of quantities.
  • Pictorial: Visual representations s of quantities on paper.
  • Abstract: Conceptual ideas of quantities presented in word problems.

How does the Singapore Math Method compare to Best Brains?

While the Singapore Method has a lot of benefits, they are not exclusive. Maybe of the components of this learning method have been implemented by the Best Brains Math program since Day 1.

  • Utilizing word problems – BOTH
    • Best Brains uses word problems throughout the curriculum to help students strengthen math concepts.
  • Balances conceptual and applied math – BEST BRAINS
    • Beyond word problems, Best Brains creates many real-world applications for students to use that reenforce the concept of the week.
  • Sequential, one concept at a time approach – BOTH
    • Students learn best when they can focus on one concept at a time and perfect it before moving on. Both Best Brains and the Singapore method build on skills without backtracking.
  • Year-round approach – BOTH
    • Singapore students don't have long breaks in between school years, so their curriculum is not designed to account for summer learning loss. This can make school implementation difficult. Best Brains courses are designed to be completed in about 6 months, with no long breaks in between levels.
  • Supports Common Core – BEST BRAINS
    • While Common Core does seem to have taken some design inspiration from the Singapore Math Method, many student, parents and teacher report confusion when trying to utilize the textbooks in the classroom. Additionally, teachers using Singapore math require ongoing training, and must purchase new textbooks yearly. Best Brains is designed to strengthen Common Core concepts without overburdening students or teachers, making for efficient learning sessions at an affordable price.

When it comes to educational studies, there is always room for improvement and innovation. Our curriculum team and staff of teachers across the US and Canada are consistently looking for opportunities to make the Best Brains experience better for everyone.

Is the COVID slide affecting your child's math grades? Sign up for a free diagnostic test and learn how Best Brains can get them back on track with a customized learning plan.


Why is Teaching a Female-Dominated Field?

Mar-15, 2021

A young teacher helping a girl read a book during class.

When you think of a teacher, what sort of person do you visualize? Someone patient with a kind smile? Someone poised and professional? Does the person you’re thinking of change when "teacher" becomes "professor?"

Since the pandemic, many conversations have been had regarding the rights, safety, and role of teachers in our schools. From picking up the pieces of administrations unequipped to handle remote learning to protesting against safety measures pushing kids back into schools, teachers have been making headlines. Since 2016, experts have warned of the growing supply and demand problem that schools would be facing over the next ten years. Reports show that the COVID crisis has only sped up this problem, with 1 in 3 teachers polled planning to retire early than usual. As fewer and fewer new teachers enter the field, keeping these veteran teachers in classrooms as long as possible can no longer be counted on to help this issue.

Teachers suffer low pay, little respect, and more and more pressure from all sides. And for many, the reason is a consequence of the teaching profession being largely populated by women. Today, 3 out of 4 public school teachers in the United States are women, and 97% of early childhood educators are women. Consequently, ECE has the lowest pay of all grade levels. This imbalance of power is also felt in administration and post-secondary education, where men make up the majority.

Historically, the teaching profession became an acceptable career path for women starting in the mid-1800's, when women seeking employment was more of a rarity. Before public school system were put into place, women were expected to teach children basic athematic, language arts, history, and life science. When public schools were established throughout the country, women were sought out for their discipline, personal accountability, and what was seen as a natural nurturing ability needed for young children sent out of the home and into the classroom. And women heeded the call, gaining financial freedom they could never had gotten any other way, a sense of purpose in helping educate the children in their care, and pride in their work and accomplishments. It was women who formed teachers’ unions to ensure fairer pay, safer working conditions, smaller class sizes, and more. Even with the advances that unions have made over the past 100 years, expert can draw many parallels between teachers at the turn of the last century and the early part of this one.

Being a woman is not a prerequisite to being a great teacher. But it’s undeniable that the traits and behaviors that society encourages women to display are assets in the classroom. This can make things very difficult for male teachers, especially of young children, who face suspicion, disrespect, and uncertainty in their chosen field. Anyone with a passion to impart knowledge and the skills to help a child understand new concepts should feel confident in their career, and no one should undervalue the hard work and dedication that goes into being a teacher. As a parent, being involved in your child’s education is about more than monitoring progress, participating in parent-teacher meetings, and helping out with the occasional fundraiser. It’s about being an advocate for education, for your own child as well as their peers. It involves supporting the teachers who dedicate their lives to improving your child’s, being an advocate for them, and demanding that they be treated with the same respect and consideration that you expect for yourself. Parents and teachers have the same goal: to help kids to Be Their Best. Together, we can make that happen every single day!


Is a "Reading Program" Enough for Your Child?

Feb-15, 2021

A child sitting in class at their desk and struggling with work

When it comes to supplemental education programs for your child, there are a variety to choose from. Most, if not all, offer some kind of Math Education and English Education as two core courses. This is unsurprising, as most standardized testing, from the SAT'S and ACT's to Common Core tests, to Smarter Balanced exit exams, all use Math and English as the two main subjects students are quizzed on.

Most programs for English focus on reading comprehension, some calling themselves a "Reading Program" instead of an English program. Reading comprehension is defined as the ability to process information conveyed through text. Children with low comprehension are fluent readers, but lack the ability to gain information from the text they read, slowing down all aspects of their academic development.

While reading comprehension is a vital part of English education, it is only 1 of the 5 components of language arts. Focusing too heavily on comprehension while ignoring these other components is doing a disservice to students, who need language arts not only to support their academic career, but to express themselves beyond the classroom. So, what are the other components of language arts, and what do they contribute to a well-rounded student?

Grammar

Grammar refers to the rules that make a language understandable. Parents can sometimes be off-put by grammar, and think it's too complicated for young children. But as the National Council of Teachers of English writes, "As human beings, we can put sentences together even as children—we can all do grammar..." A comprehensive English program centers grammar as soon as children are fluent readers, so that they can understand the language that they're reading, organize their thoughts clearly, speak with confidence and authority, and communicate well above grade level. Organization is often a key to success, and by incorporating lessons in grammar, a child's thoughts become organized, too, clearing the way for complex thoughts and ideas.

Spelling

Thanks to spell check, auto-correct, and speak-to-type, what use are spelling drills anymore? Well, you might as well ask why teach basic math when we have calculators! Firstly, many schools require handwritten homework and tests, so no relying on our computers for help. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, having a strong grasp on spelling is a key to understanding language. Spelling helps us visualize our words when we're young, and helps us not to confuse one word for another. Learning new words and how to properly spell them is a time-tested exercise to challenge a growing mind. There's a reason why Scripp's National Spelling Bee has been a respected academic institution since 1945.

Vocabulary

Not only does having a strong vocabulary make them excellent at crossword puzzles, but developing their vocabulary contributes directly to a child's reading comprehension. English is a difficult language to master, with one of the largest number of words of any language. By focusing on improving vocabulary, students advance their reading level above their current grade level, opening the door to more opportunities. For example, many gifted and talents programs use vocabulary as a measure to choose which children can attend.

Writing

Nothing makes an educator feel prouder than seeing students express themselves, and writing is one of the most accessible means of expression. Unfortunately, essay writing has been under scrutiny lately. While recent changes to many standardized tests have removed the essay portion of their exams, these changes may be temporary. Additionally, changes to standardized testing are a direct consequence of the rise of A.P. or Advanced Placement courses, where essay writing can be a large component for a variety of subjects like history and social sciences. Beyond the classroom, the ability to write fiction and non-fiction is an artistic and creative outlet that children badly need as they grow and develop their emotions.

When it comes to your child's education, don't settle for a "reading program." Find an English program which utilizes and celebrates all 5 components of language arts, to give your child the tools for success!


Assessing the Effects of COVID-19 on Education

Jan-18, 2021

A child sitting isolated on her bed with her teddy bear working on homework.

As parents and educators, we have been closely monitoring the ongoing effects of distance learning on kids in the US and Canada. We have reported several stories since March regarding the state of education during the pandemic, along with offering our advice on how to combat the negative effects created by this crisis. Now that we are beginning a third semester of virtual learning, have we uncovered any more facts about the true cost this pandemic is having on the academic progress of our kids?

The effects of COVID-19 on education have been felt on a global scale. In August, the UN released a report on the state of the crisis, predicting that almost 23 million children would be dropping out of school in the following year due to the pandemic. Lack of school has also disrupted children's nutrition, increased the risk of violence against children and child labor, and could create a ripple effect that would leave already under-funded school systems around the world in an even more precarious financial position for years, maybe even decades to come.

In the US, the results of assessment tests have revealed some data on the progress children are making. In a sampling of 3rd to 8th grade students, it was found that children have been improving their math and reading scores. However, while reading scores have not been significantly impacted by distance learning, math scores have. This has largely been attributed to both how the format of virtual learning is better equipped to teach reading than math, and also to parents who may feel more comfortable assisting with reading than with math. MAP surveys have also reached the same conclusions, showing that gains have been made in children's education, but the students surveyed are not growing as much as they were compared to last year.

As we have previously stated, while these results are better than expected, these results are only taken from children who were able to be polled. The ones how have regular access to internet, support from their schools, and who regularly participate in class. For the children who cannot be reached by virtual learning, whose parents are out of work, who have lost family to this disease, who are facing food insecurity on a daily basis, it is much harder to track. It's estimated that about 3 million kids in the US have had almost no schooling since March. How can we reach those children who need help the most?

Education is about more than grades. It's about growing and developing into capable adults prepared to participate in a caring society. With 80% of kids reporting loneliness and isolation, the effects of being separated from school and their peers run far deeper than their report cards.

At Best Brains, we have worked hard to make our program accessible to all our students, to guide their education and prevent stagnation. In 2021, we will look at how much more we can do, to get our kids back on the right track. To help them feel connected, supported, and valued. We hope you will join us in these efforts!