TIME Education

Venomous Spiders Shut Down a Pennsylvania School

Recluse spider or Brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa), Sicariidae.
Rebecca Hardy—De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images Recluse spider or Brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa), Sicariidae.

Brown recluse spiders were found in the school for the third time

(MERCERSBURG, Pa.)—A Pennsylvania school district has closed one of its elementary schools due to an infestation of venomous spiders.

WHTM-TV reports this is the third time brown recluse spiders were found at Montgomery Elementary School in Mercersburg.

The Tuscarora School District made the decision to close the school Tuesday after officials met with the district’s pest control management company. The company found five to six spiders in the school’s library in mid-July. They were also found last year at different times in the lunchroom kitchen and the boiler room.

Superintendent Dr. Charles Prijatelj says crews are spraying pesticides outside the school and the district plans to fog the entire building. Staff have already sealed cracks in the school’s walls

Steve Miller, of Home Paramount Pest Control, says the spider bites are usually painless but it produces an ulcer. The spider is not native to the region.

TIME Education

How Classroom Curriculum Can Impact Children’s Friendships

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Simply placing children with and without disabilities in the same classroom will not guarantee peer acceptance or friendships

Friendship is often described as a major outcome of early childhood inclusive classrooms that support all children, irrespective of their abilities.

Friendships provide children with joy, laughter and comfort. They may also prevent later bullying and support smoother transitions into kindergarten for children with a range of disabilities. Friendships are considered a vital developmental milestone for all children.

Yet, developing close relationships may be difficult for some children. This is especially true for children who enter school without well-developed social-emotional skills. About 40% of children with disabilities, for example, enter kindergarten without developing age-appropriate skills in this area.

So, what impact does curriculum have on the development of friendships for children with disabilities? And how can teachers help nurture these friendships?

Investigating the impact of curriculum

To answer these questions, we conducted a study that included 110 kindergarteners, 26 of whom had disabilities, within six classrooms across a Midwest and a New England state.

This study took place as part of another longer-term research project in which teachers were randomly assigned to use either a “disability-awareness curriculum” or a modified science curriculum.

In our study, curricula included similar components of class-wide book readings and teacher-led discussions, “cooperative learning groups” (a teaching strategy that brings together groups of students with different abilities), and a classroom lending library to promote shared reading at home.

These curricula were chosen because they were alike in some ways. Both allowed teachers to focus discussions on similarities between the book content and kindergarteners. And both could include the three core components (ie, book reading, cooperative groups, and home literacy).

What we found surprised us. The number of close friendships among children with disabilities significantly increased in classrooms where the science curriculum was implemented.

Examining the results more closely

Implementation of the two curricula was designed to create similar opportunities for interactions between children with and without disabilities.

In their classrooms, children participated in similar activities: they were read books and encouraged to participate in discussions either about disability or science-related topics. Each week, children were able to take one of the books home that was read to them at school.

However, the cooperative learning groups were designed differently. In the cooperative learning groups for the science curriculum, children focused on science activities that were more outcome-orientated (eg, making bird nests, measuring worms).

In the cooperative learning groups for the disability-awareness curriculum, children participated in play-based activities with open-ended materials and toys (eg, farm animals and a barn, pretend kitchen set and food).

Our observations of children’s play during the cooperative learning groups suggest that participating children with disabilities may not have had the skills needed to fully engage in the group’s play.

For example, some children struggled to enter into ongoing play. During one such activity, a child was playing with a “pretend cash register” and another child with a disability wanted a turn with it. The child asked his peer if he could play with it. However, the peer said no.

In response, the child repeated his same question again and again, receiving the same response from his peer. The child with a disability did not have a broad repertoire of social or play skills to try other strategies such as asking if he might have a turn when the peer was done, or if he could trade roles with the peer (eg, become the cashier and suggest the peer become a shopper).

It seems that cooperative play is an area in which advanced or higher-level skills are needed to be successful. These skills include sharing materials, assisting peers, entering into ongoing play or offering a storyline for imaginative play.

The results from this study on friendships suggest that without these skills, children’s contributions to play may have been less successful, and peers may have viewed children with disabilities as less than ideal play partners.

In comparison, the science experiences such as making bird nests together, painting group posters with each child’s handprints on them and measuring the length of worms may have provided children with outcome-oriented tasks and the support needed to participate in ways similar to peers.

A shared activity with a common goal may have provided the structure that some children with disabilities needed to successfully participate alongside peers. In this arrangement, peers may have viewed classmates with disabilities as competent contributors to the group task.

Taken together, this could have been the reason for the increase in close classroom friendships for children with disabilities who participated in the science curriculum.

What can we learn from this?

First, there has been a lot of discussion focused on how play is no longer a valued part of kindergarten education in the United States. Also, kindergarten schedules leave very little room for play or for supporting the development of social-emotional skills.

Our results provide support for creating opportunities for children to learn through playful interactions. These findings also acknowledge that some children may enter school with limited social-emotional and play skills that are needed to form friendships. These children need teacher support and repeated classroom opportunities to master those skills.

Second, the debate of whether kindergarten classes should have either an academic or social focus must stop.

We believe that the structure of the science-based cooperative learning groups in our study may have served an important role in supporting the development of close friendships, especially for children with disabilities.

We also believe that social-emotional skill development, and the development of friendships, can occur across the school day depending on how teachers structure their classroom environment and schedule, and support learning outcomes.

What can teachers do?

Early childhood teachers can support the development of friendships by the way they structure activities in their classroom.

For example, teachers can purposefully place more social children next to quieter children during group activities. They can pair children who already have a budding relationship to do an activity together, or they can create activities in which small groups of children can interact while completing a project together.

Teachers can support the development of social skills through large and small group instruction. Also, teachers can provide individualized social skill instruction based on student needs, and on an individual basis as necessary.

Inclusive classrooms are a trend increasing in the United States. Teaching children how to share, how to handle anger and conflict, how to express their emotions and how to enter into ongoing play situations are all important skills for young children to learn. Some children might need more support than others to develop these skills.

Simply placing children with and without disabilities in the same classroom will not guarantee peer acceptance or friendships.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation

The Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Education

What Common Core Teaches Us About the Future of Testing

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Shifting emphasis to understanding over rote

Whether you love it or loathe it, the Common Core State Standards Initiative has officially arrived in American classrooms. The origin of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, or the Common Core for short, is a widely recognized need for uniformity in United States education. In other words, a diploma from a suburban California school should mean that a student is as well prepared for college and the workforce as a student from rural Iowa or urban New York. The debate around the Common Core has been fierce, but this article will not revisit it. Instead, it will shed light on three things the Common Core assessments teach us about the future of testing:

1. Contextual learning

One feature of the Common Core that resonates with students, parents, and schools alike is the increased importance of understanding concepts in their natural contexts. Students no longer learn simple word definitions; they learn to decode the nuances of a word as it is used in a specific passage. Similarly, knowing how to construct an equation based on a given scenario is just as important as being able to solve that equation for x.

In a sense, this is no different from what many great teachers have always done. However, some teachers were forced to emphasize rote memorization of basic facts in order to prepare their students for standardized tests. These instructors can now begin to re-emphasize understanding.

2. New testing directions

As one might expect, a new set of standards calls for a new set of assessments to evaluate how well these objectives are being met. The Common Core does not include any standardized tests, so the exams that debuted widely this year are developed and administered by several different groups, including the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. While each state can choose which test to give, they are alike in emphasizing context and fluency of knowledge.

Both groups are also attempting to make their exams more interactive by incorporating computer-based assessments. The interactive elements of Common Core-affiliated testing are still in their infancy, but it is clear that the future lies with computers. Students might one day be asked to highlight the sentence in a passage that best supports a thesis, or that defines a term, or that disproves another statement. Math problems could be constructed to involve drawing geometric figures, or, for younger children, grouping objects by type using a mouse.

3. Critical thinking and fluency

A traditional test question might provide a student with a vocabulary word, and then ask him or her to choose the single best synonym from a list of five possible choices. A slightly more sophisticated question might use the form of an analogy where definitions for three individual terms would have to be parsed in order to secure a correct answer for the fourth word. On a Common Core assessment, a student might be asked to define an underlined word in a passage, and he or she may then have to choose from a set of phrases that are all possible definitions of the term. “State,” for example, is not a challenging word on its own, but it has several distinct meanings.

One benefit of this approach is that adept students can puzzle out the meaning of an unfamiliar word using clues from the surrounding text. If the rest of the paragraph discussed politics, for example, any unrelated answer phrases could likely be ruled out. The new format, then, emphasizes critical thinking and reading comprehension over simple memorization.

Fluency is also critical in the Common Core era. Fluency refers to understanding information thoroughly – inside and out, backward and forward, etc. In math, for example, it is not sufficient to simply memorize the Pythagorean Theorem (a2 + b2 = c2 for right triangles). You would also need to know when it is an applicable technique. For example, you might be told that movers trying to load a truck want to roll a heavy piece of equipment aboard (rather than lifting it). If the truck bed is three feet high, and if they have a ramp that is 12 feet long, how much room will they need to leave such that the ramp can be laid out straight behind the truck?

The great news is that the ACT and the SAT are moving to similar formats, so the time spent preparing for Common Core exams during the K-12 years can be applied to college entrance tests too. In short, almost all of our pre-college education is currently attempting to shift its emphasis to understanding over rote. The success of that shift remains to be seen, but in the meantime, it is well worth considering the bigger picture and knowing all possible applications of material when testing. Good luck!

Brian Witte is a professional SAT tutor with Varsity Tutors. He earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington and holds a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.

More from Varsity Tutors:

TIME Family

How Parents’ Expectations Mess With Kids’ Grades

Bad news? Blame your folks
JEFF PACHOUD; AFP/Getty Images Bad news? Blame your folks

When Mom and Dad expect one child to perform better than the other, that's often exactly what happens

Never mind how long you think it’s been since you got your last report card, if you’re a parent, you get them all the time. Your son’s D in history despite the many times you told him to sit down and study already? That’s your D too. And as for all those As your no-nonsense, hardworking daughter keeps getting? Well, don’t get too full of yourself, but you own a piece of those as well.

That, at least, is one implication of a new—and faintly unsettling—study published in the Journal of Family Psychology. The report’s takeaway: your kids get the grades you expect them to get.

Parental expectations have long been an under-appreciated factor in the childrearing game. Kids are smart, the research suggests, especially when it comes to divining what mom and dad think of them. A child who is expected to underachieve will often live down to that prediction. A child expected to thrive will not necessarily become an academic, athletic or social superstar, but will have a much better shot at it.

To test how this dynamic plays out in the case of scholastic performance, Alexander Jensen of Brigham Young University and Susan McHale of Penn State assembled a sample group of 388 two-parent families with at least two children, and focused on the first- and second-borns of the brood. The sibling dyads—or pairs—were selected to represent all four possible age and gender combinations: two brothers, two sisters, an older brother and younger sister and an older sister and younger brother.

The parents were asked a handful of questions about how their children are similar or different when it comes to school work, which of the two is a better student, and how great, on a five-point scale, that difference in performance is. Simple stuff, but it produced surprising results.

On the whole, parents tended to believe that their older child was the better student, though the previous year’s report cards and grade point average often showed that that wasn’t the case. Parents exhibited a gender bias too, typically believing that a daughter was a better student than a son—which on average was true—even when the daughter was the younger child.

All those beliefs, founded in fact or not, had their effect on kids. When the researchers controlled for all of the reasons one child might have performed even a little bit better than the other in the previous school year, they found that the biggest factor determining how the kids would perform the following year was the parents’ belief in who the better student was. On average, the sibling the parents expected to outperform the other one did, by an average GPA bump of 0.21 points. That’s hardly an inconsequential margin, especially when it makes the kind of symbolic difference bringing home a 2.79 versus a 3.0 does.

But while parental expectations had a powerful impact on the kids performance, the reverse was not often true. Even when the child who was thought to be the lesser student did better than the other one, parents’ beliefs remained fixed; the golden child will always be seen as the golden child, never mind any academic tarnish that may accumulate over time.

The study was by no means a perfect one. Some parents surely do a worse job of hiding their expectations than others; some may even make it a point not to hide them, in the why-can’t-you-study-like-your-sister-does way. A sample group of 388 families might have 388 different ways of managing that dynamic.

Then too there is the chicken-egg problem. A question and answer survey of parents and a statistical core sample of just a year or two of grades does not remotely capture an entire childhood’s worth of experiences in which kids’ academic performance may be changing all the time and parents are forever having to tack into those winds.

“At younger ages, differences between siblings may shape parents’ beliefs,” the authors conceded, “and a direction for research is to determine how parents’ ideas about similarities and differences between their children emerge and develop over time.”

Still, if there’s one thing kids have always had it’s an uncannily good radar for what their parents think of them. And if there’s one thing parents often lack, it’s a good defense against that. Mom and Dad may never be able to hide their expectations about their kids completely, but they could, at least, do a better job of adjusting them as circumstances warrant. The kids themselves—to say nothing of their GPAs—will thank them for it.

TIME Education

Why We Need to Keep iPads Out of the Classroom

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Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

People think tech will magically solve education's problems—they're wrong

It’s still mystifying that in this time of limited educational funding, the people running the Los Angeles Unified School District were such an easy sell when it came to technology.

After LAUSD made an enormous investment in iPads and Pearson educational products developed for those iPads, teachers quickly discovered the iPad program didn’t work as guaranteed and the Pearson applications were useless. Superintendent John Deasy resigned in disgrace, elections changed the school board, and the FBI began an investigation into allegations of bid-rigging.

I’m inclined to believe that those in charge saw the iPad as a magic talisman that could just about transplant knowledge into students’ brains directly, bypassing teachers. LAUSD technophiles saw teachers as low-tech and low-value conduits between students and cutting-edge software and hardware; teachers weren’t consulted on the purchase or given a chance to give the machines a trial. I suspect the LAUSD powers hoped to construct a system that would be efficient as technology can make other aspects of life, like Ubering up an education.

But teaching isn’t always efficient. Often it’s messy, and because it’s messy, the process can produce epiphanies, and sparks of creative thinking.

I taught English for five years at Locke High School in South Los Angeles. One of the highlights of my career was when a student, a kid who dressed like a Crip, asked where I had gotten a short story that I photocopied for the class, Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants.”

He said, “It ain’t a real story.”

“Why isn’t it a real story?” I asked.

“’Cause it’s interesting,“ he replied.

I was confused but flattered, and later, as I mulled over exchange, it became clear to me that a kid who was unaccustomed to reading had been engaged at a high level because I had found the appropriate material for him, something that wasn’t complex in language, but sophisticated in action, character, and meaning. I suspect my student had responded to Issues that are raised from the point of view of a woman desperately appealing for her lover not to compel her to have an abortion. This isn’t common in a world where teenagers often get their cues of sexual conduct from sources in hip-hop who don’t share the powers of empathy of a Kendrick Lamar that he demonstrates in “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.”

An iPad is an amazing device for transmitting information, but what makes a difference in a student’s life is the information, not its mode of transmission. Appropriate content, provided at the right time in the student’s life, and in the right pedagogical context, is everything. Technology doesn’t guarantee any part of that. An iPad loaded with inane apps is just another boring textbook.

The technology that made this connection with my student possible was the photocopy machine, technology that — when I taught — was rationed, only accessible to administrators, not to teachers, who were condemned to use that ancient but cheap technology of the mimeograph machine. So I paid out of pocket to make sure my students had the material that I thought would engage them. An iPad would have made this process only marginally better than what was available 20 years ago. Tech wasn’t going to magically transform this student, or students like him onto devoted readers.

My magic talisman, in conveying Hemingway to this student, was another teacher, Professor Alan Stephens at UC Santa Barbara. I was lucky enough to have taken a great Hemingway course that he taught that made it possible for me to understand how to teach Hemingway and stress what was valuable — the clarity, the powers of observation, the brilliant dialogue, and also the flaws of racism and anti-Semitism. I learned it well enough to develop curriculum for it, to sell it to these students who often treated their textbooks as if they were written in another language.

Tech isn’t a panacea. On an orderly campus with sufficient funding for workable restrooms and other niceties that enable students to be comfortable enough to flourish academically, it can be a useful tool for well-trained teachers. What tech can’t do is change the culture of campuses where academic achievement is rare.

Locke High School is in an area of Los Angeles suffering from high unemployment and high crime, just as it did 24 years ago when I was there, though. Some students did well and achieved academically, but the majority of these students graduated in the lower percentiles in reading and math. The majority of students did want to graduate and some wanted to go to college, but many of them were rudderless, hoping at best to blunder into a community college or the military. Their choices were informed by brutal reality and existential struggle, then as today. Doing well in school mattered but personal safety and money mattered more.

Under these difficult circumstances, schools that create a sense of order but also respect these young men and women can accomplish miracles. It is not an easy thing to do, and when it is done these schools and programs deserve great praise. USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative headed by Kim Barrios is such a program. It’s a seven-year pre-college enrichment program designed for low-income neighborhood students. If they complete the program and meet USC’s admission requirements and decide to attend USC, they are rewarded with a full financial package.

It also supports the USC Family Schools, such as Foshay Learning Center. The students are lively but prepared, and instruction is the highest priority. Students understand that attending Foshay is a privilege that can be revoked. They are expected to buy into the code of conduct of the school and if they don’t consequences follow.

When I attended Foshay in the ’70s, it was one of my worst experiences of growing up. I feared for my life and saw riots, beatings, girls sexually assaulted, and teachers slugged. Now, it’s an entirely different world: kids and their families have bought into the culture of achievement to such a degree that many of their students attend the Saturday Academy at USC and are there by 7:50 a.m. Groggy, but ready to attend S.A.T. preparation classes. As a consequence of all this hard work and support, the black and Latino Students in the Neighborhood Academic Initiative all graduate from high school, and more than 98 percent attend four-year colleges and universities.

Verbum Dei in Los Angeles is another school that that overwhelmingly serves low-income black and Latino students in a community that suffers from high unemployment and high crime. Students at Verbum Dei all graduate and are admitted to multiple colleges and universities. Here, too, students buy into the demanding culture of the school, with tons of homework and school-required work (yes, they work, at law firms and other high-income businesses).

The commonalty of these very different success stories is not the emphasis on tech gadgetry but making the investment in creating a culture for achievement and getting the kids and their families to buy into it.

Seemingly, Deasy and the technophiles didn’t see what should have been obvious: an iPad is an amazing device but it isn’t so amazing without content or the right pedagogical context. School reform isn’t expensive tech and high-stakes testing; it’s the incredibly difficult task of creating highly functioning, transformative educational communities. Tech isn’t a shortcut. We are asking teachers and schools to fight the war on poverty when we won’t even admit that we are doing exactly that.

The hundreds of millions already spent and wasted by LAUSD on this misadventure serve as a very expensive cautionary tale.

Jervey Tervalon founded and directs the Literature for Life/Locovore-Lit Los Angeles project. This article was written for Zocalo Public Square and is supported by a grant from the California Wellness Foundation.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Amazon

This Kindle Deal Is Perfect For Keeping Your Kids Reading This Summer

And you get to save some cash

As school nears summer recess, Amazon has jumped on a commercial opportunity involving students: Summer reading lists.

The tech giant is offering an e-reader package targeted toward children that includes a Kindle device, a protective cover, and a two-year warranty. Whereas normally those three items would run a person about $140, the new deal prices them together at $99.

Parents need not worry about their kids slacking off and using the device to play games either: The Kindle e-reader, unlike a Kindle tablet, supports only books—not apps. It also comes with “Kindle FreeTime,” a progress tracker parents can use to prevent their children from accessing recreational content on other Amazon devices until they’ve met certain goals. For example: finishing a chapter in a book before popping open, say, Angry Birds.

FreeTime puts social media, websites and the Kindle store off limits, too. Parents can instead choose what books to make available on the e-reader, which comes with four gigabytes of storage, five different colored covers—dark blue, green, purple, red, and black—and can stay charged for up to four weeks, assuming that the user only reads for a half hour per day and doesn’t use wireless.

The company has assembled its own recommended summer reading lists as well, including selections for the categories “Baby-Age 2,” “Ages 3-5,” “Ages 6-8,” and “Ages 9-12.” There are nearly 3,500 books total in the company’s “summer reading for kids” collection.

TIME language

7 Things You Should Know About the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee

TIME's guide to the B-E-S-T week of the year

In the first on-stage round of the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee, only four of 283 kids heard the dreaded ring of the elimination bell. Most breezed through words like ubiquitous, flamenco, autopsy, howitzer and oregano at the front of a giant ballroom outside Washington, D.C. But when the spellers returned for the second on-stage round Wednesday afternoon, some adjustments had clearly been made to thin the flock.

Wearing giant placards and nervous grins, some 13-year-olds navigated the likes of panophthalmitis (inflammation involving tissues of the eyeball) and triumphantly threw their thin limbs in the air. Others held back tears after missing a vowel in the likes of guayabi (a highly valued hard tough wood from South America) and were politely sent off the stage with the same sound used to summon bellhops in fancy hotels.

By Thursday evening, when ESPN broadcasts the finals at 8 p.m. ET, there will be just a dozen spellers left. Here are seven things that will help viewers fully appreciate this harrowing, inspiring American ritual.

Americans are about three times more likely to be struck by lightning in their lifetime than to make it to the national finals. The odds of being zapped by lightning in one’s life are about one in 12,000, according to the National Weather Service. Of the 11 million kids who compete in the bee on some level, only 283 made it to the competition in National Harbor, Md., this year. That’s roughly 0.000026%, or one in 38,869.

There’s an app for that. Scripps, the sponsor of the bee, debuted an app called Buzzworthy this year. When you sign up, you’re automatically assigned five spellers that are essentially your fantasy football team for the competition. They spell words right, you get points. And each has an endearing bio so there’s no way to remain unattached. (Dear Jeffery “Eager to Embrace Tropical Flavors” Thompson: I’m counting on you.)

The process for picking the spelling words is top secret. The officials at Scripps who put on the bee guard their process for developing the word list like nuclear launch codes. There is a word committee, whose members are secret. The sources they use are secret. The qualities they look for are secret. “The nature of how that comes to be is something that needs to be protected,” says Scripps spokesperson Valerie Miller. There are whispers that some word committee members are dictionary officials, while others are former spelling champions themselves.

It is known that words get harder as the competition goes on. Words in the preliminary rounds come from study guides of about 1,500 words that are given to the spellers when they advance to the national finals. But once spellers get to the semi-finals and finals, the words they face could be any of the roughly 472,000 that are in Merriam-Webster’s Third Edition. When the contest comes down to three or fewer spellers in the final, officials advance to a special “championship list.”

There can be up to three co-champions of the bee. Once the spellers have advanced to the championship list of 25 words, there’s no other place to go. If everyone still in the game at that point spells all the words correctly as the officials go through the list, then everyone wins. That’s why there were two co-champions in 2014.

Spellers of South Asian descent have long dominated the bee. For the first time, bee director Paige Kimble recently talked about an obvious but sensitive trend: the spelling domination of Indian-American students. They’ve won the last seven years and all but four of the past 15 years, which led to some ugly comments on social media last year about “real Americans.” Miller says some research into the trend—by academics like Northwestern’s Shalini Shankar—has found that “grit” is the winners’ key attribute. Accomplishment, competition and early literacy are also important in South Asian cultures, Miller says: “When you pair up that love of competition with encouragement and emphasis on education, [spelling bees] are a natural fit.”

The real killer at the bee isn’t nerves; it’s the schwa. There are some obvious characteristics that make words tough to spell, like silent letters (mnemonic), double letters (braggadocio) or single letters where you might expect double letters (sassafras). But the true nemesis of spellers is the schwa, the vowel sound that we hear in words like America, belief and history. The schwa can be rendered as any vowel and even be silent in words like rhyth(ə)m. “The schwa is the richest source of guesses in the final rounds, the most common source of confusion,” says Merriam-Webster’s Peter Sokolowski. “These are championship spellers and that’s the most common error at highest, highest level.”

TIME Innovation

How to Fix Fraternities

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Can returning to their roots help fix frats?

By Emily Esfahani Smith in the New Criterion

2. The top reason students struggle academically doesn’t have anything to do with schools.

By Lyndsey Layton in the Washington Post

3. Why we should keep Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks off the $20 bill.

By Kirsten West Savali in the Root

4. Should the U.S. stop trusting Pakistan?

By Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman in the Reuters Great Debate

5. Calls to reform Islam ignore the bloody history of religious reformation.

By Mehdi Hasan in the Guardian

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Education

Here’s Where You’re Going to Find the Best Schools in the World

Schools in Asia outperform those everywhere else

Asian countries claimed the top five spots in a global math-and-science-education ranking administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) while the U.S. placed 28th, below much poorer countries such as the Czech Republic and Vietnam.

Singapore ranked best in the world, with Hong Kong placing second and South Korea, Japan and Taiwan rounding out top five, reports the BBC.

At sixth, Finland is the first non-Asian country to appear in the rankings; Ghana came in last place.

“The idea is to give more countries, rich and poor, access to comparing themselves against the world’s education leaders, to discover their relative strengths and weaknesses, and to see what the long-term economic gains from improved quality in schooling could be for them,” said OECD education director Andreas Schleicher.

The new rankings are different the more well-known PISA scores, which traditionally focuses on affluent nations. The latest version, based on tests taken in different regions worldwide, includes 76 countries of varying economic status.

“This is the first time we have a truly global scale of the quality of education,” said Schleicher.

Below is the top 10 as reported by the BBC.

1. Singapore

2. Hong Kong

3. South Korea

4. Japan

4. Taiwan

6. Finland

7. Estonia

8. Switzerland

9. Netherlands

10. Canada

[BBC]

TIME Innovation

What’s Behind the Russia-China Cyber Deal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Should we be worried about the new Internet security pact between China and Russia?

By Cyrus Farivar in Ars Technica

2. Here’s a roadmap for building an innovation ecosystem in Africa.

By Jean Claude Bastos de Morais in IT News Africa

3. What if junk food actually kills off the bacteria that keeps us healthy?

By Luke Heighton in the Telegraph

4. We’re about to lose the best way to measure how well we educate poor kids.

By Jill Barshay in the Hechinger Report

5. Want to end the War on Drugs? Don’t talk to Washington. Lobby your local police department.

By Ben Collins in the Daily Beast

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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