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May 2010

By: Paul | May 25 2010 | Category: Issues in Education

NCLB Logo with hourglassESEA Reauthorization: Time Is Running Out in 2010

This is the year the Administration and Congress are scheduled to get together and agree on a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known since 2002 as the “No Child Left Behind Act.” Time is running out, though, and there’s a good chance that other legislative issues and pressures will move to the top of the agenda. Action on the ESEA reauthorization would then have to be put off until January or February 2011.

With the benefit of the Administration’s “Blueprint for Reform,” the Senate and House education committees have already been holding hearings and collecting information on ESEA-related issues. An actual bill has yet to be introduced, however. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is committed to seeing one moved forward this year, he says. For that to happen, Congress will have to work on the reauthorization over the summer.

Competing for time on Congress’s calendar is a litany of high-priority issues, including overhauling the nation’s financial regulatory structure and coping with the growing importance of energy and immigration legislation, as well as the usual spending bills and, for the Senate, the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

Reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act requires time-consuming discussions of complex core issues such as standards of learning, teacher quality, and accountability, which threatens to derail the legislation. Secretary Duncan and the Administration are aware of this possibility, but they are focusing on an optimistic course that leads to an enacted bill before the election recess.

Blueprint for Reform
No Child Left Behind Act
By: Gina | May 20 2010 | Category: Science Lite, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

Ten DNA pools, each containing DNA from nine individuals. If an individual's DNA is present in a particular pool, their intials are listed in the row for that pool.Suppose you’ve discovered that the genes responsible for (let’s say) Gina’s disease lie in a particular region of chromosome 3. You decide to sequence the DNA in that region to identify variants (mutations) that cause the problem. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of variation, so it’s not easy to link one particular variant with the illness. If you could just sequence the DNA of 10,000 people, you could figure it out. 
As if! It’s possible to sequence DNA from many people in the same tube simultaneously but to do it, each DNA has to be labeled with its own “barcode” so its sequence can be matched back to the correct individual. Barcoding 10,000 DNA samples would take a long time and be very expensive. 
Last year, researchers at Cold Spring Harbor LaboratoryExternal Web Site Policy figured out a way to get around this problem.1 They decided to pool each person’s DNA with that of others, but instead of tagging each person’s, they put every individual’s DNA into several different pools. 
How does that help? A simple example is shown in the figure. Suppose each person’s DNA is placed in five pools. If the sequence GACGGCATGTA is found in pools #1 #2, #3, #5, and #10 but not in any other pools, the sequence can be uniquely assigned to person AM because AM is the only person with DNA in all of those pools. Similarly, if the sequence AATTGCTAGCA is found only in pools #1, #3, #6, #8, and #10, the sequence can be uniquely assigned to person JS. 
Of course, it may be simple to sort things out in a small sample, but imagine trying to do this if there are thousands of people and hundreds of pools. What’s a scientist to do? Enter ”DNA Sudoku.” It turns out that the same math used to determine the unique pattern of each Sudoku puzzle can be used to assign each DNA variation to a particular person. In fact, it’s theoretically possible to sequence more than 100,000 samples simultaneously. Once the technology is perfected, a project that would cost $10 million today may soon cost as little as $50,000.
1 Erlich, Y., et al. 2009. DNA Sudoku—harnessing high-throughput sequencing for multiplexed specimen analysis. Genome Research 19: 1243-1253External Web Site Policy.
By: Gina | May 19 2010 | Category: Issues in Education, Tidbits for Teachers

Image of entrance to RAMSIf you are one of the ~240 students who go to Starmont High School in Arlington, Iowa you may think you are pretty lucky.  You have the luxury of a small school in a great setting and a wealth of opportunities to take courses for college credit.  What, you say? How can a school with only 240 students make that happen?  The smart way.  By taking advantage of the nearby Regional Academy for Math and ScienceExternal Web Site Policy, or RAMS.

RAMS is a state-of-the art facility that gives high school kids the chance to take high level hands-on physics and engineering classes.  (Biology classes are coming next.) Many students who attend RAMS earn either AP credit or credit at Northeast Iowa Community CollegeExternal Web Site Policy.

Located in Oelwein, Iowa, RAMS is a stones throw away-at least by rural Iowa standards-from seven school districts, including Starmont.  All of these districts have been invited to send students to the academy.  So far, two years after it opened its doors, four have accepted.

RAMS isn’t the permanent home of any of the students. Instead students are shuttled out or drive themselves to the school a couple of times a week. The 20-30 minute rides are worked into the students’ schedules by scheduling RAMS periods adjacent to their free period.  RAMS also offers early morning classes to accommodate some students and students can video link in on days when they aren’t doing hands-on experiments. 

Why is this a big deal? Data in the Annual Condition of Iowa’s Community Colleges 2009External Web Site Policy report show that a degree from a community college pays off, and certain program areas pay off more than others.  The career and technical programs with the highest rate of return included science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  Moreover, the idea for the academy grew out of brainstorming at the local economic-development group as a way to attract high-tech businesses to the area.  A skilled workforce will certainly help. 

By: Gina | May 18 2010 | Category: Science and the Arts, Science Lite, Scientists in the Community

Photograph of Ryam MiyakawaThe USA Science & Engineering Festival External Web Site Policy just announced winners of their jingle contest.  The entries were great and the winning jingles awesome. Listen to the tunesExternal Web Site Policy on the Festival Web site. 

The winning jingle was composed by Ryan Miyakawa a Ph.D. student in applied science and technology at UC Berkeley.  Second place was taken by Daniel Rubalsky, a 15-year old tenth-grader from Reisterstown, MD.

Ryan's song, "Come and Play at the USA Science and Engineering Festival!", is sung by UC Berkeley undergraduate Glory Liu with the help of seven-year-old Noa Perlmutter (daughter of well-known UC Berkeley astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter) and 11 year-old Kassie Demopoulous  (daughter of Glory's thesis advisor).

The second place prize to Daniel was added by Festival organizers because his song received so many votes from the public.  (And a good decision it was!)  The song, "The Science Festival is Coming," is performed by Daniel and his four-member band, State the Name.

Come to the two day USA Science & Engineering Expo on the National Mall October 23 &24th.  Not in the DC area? Check out the USA Science & Engineering Festival External Web Site Policy Web site to find a satellite festival near you.  Satellite festivals will run from October 10th -24th.

By: Debbie | May 6 2010 | Category: NIH Resources, Tidbits for Teachers

Many mental disorders have their beginnings in childhood or adolescence. The National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey found that 13 percent of children ages 8 to 15 had at least one mental disorder, a rate comparable to diabetes, asthma, and other diseases of childhood. Yet, mental disorders often go undiagnosed and untreated for years.

The NIH has created a curriculum supplement, The Science of Mental Illness, for grades 6-8 that is designed to help students gain insight into the biological basis of mental illnesses and how scientific evidence and research can help us understand its causes and lead to treatments and, ultimately, cures. The Science of Mental Illness includes the following lessons and major concepts:
  • The Brain: Control Central  -- The brain is the organ that controls feelings, behaviors, and thoughts, and changes in the brain’s activity result in long- or short-term changes to these.
  • What’s Wrong? -- Mental illnesses such as depression are diseases of the brain.
  • Mental Illness: Could It Happen to Me? -- Though everyone is at risk, factors such as genetics, environment, and social influences determine a person’s propensity to develop a mental illness.
  • Treatment Works! -- Medications and psychotherapies are among the effective treatments for most mental illnesses.
  • In Their Own Words -- Includes a fascinating video of students discussing how mental illness affects their lives and how their illnesses are treated so that they can function effectively.
  • You’re the Expert Now -- Learning the facts about mental illness can dispel misconceptions.
You can access the Science of Mental Illness online, and teachers can request a free print version.

More Information about Children's Mental Health Awareness Day from the National Institute of Mental Health

Children's Mental Health Awareness Day
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Resources (includes podcasts and transcripts)
By: Cynthia | May 5 2010 | Category: NIH Resources, Science History

image of woman with surgical maskA National Library of Medicine (NLM) traveling exhibition plus online resources celebrating America’s women physicians

Dr. Marcella Farinelli Fierro inspired best-selling crime writer Patricia Cornwell to write a highly successful series of crime novels featuring a forensic pathologist. Dr. Virginia Apgar designed the now standard physical report index for all newborns (the Apgar score). Dr. Antonia Novello was the first woman and the first Hispanic to become Surgeon General of the United States.

You can find these and other interesting facts about America’s women physicians online at NLM’s Changing the Face of Medicine exhibition. Many of the featured women faced and overcame daunting obstacles to achieve success. The exhibition honors their lives and accomplishments, with the hope of inspiring a new generation of medical pioneers.

The online exhibition offers
  • videos and inspiring stories about accomplished women physicians
  • activities about how the human body works
  • career information for students
  • lesson plans for teachers
  • a bibliography of suggested reading
The traveling exhibition is now touring medical schools across the country. Computer kiosks display multimedia features from the original exhibition (2003−2005 at NLM), including films about women physicians, career resources, and educational activities.

Check out the tour itinerary to see if it’s coming to a place near you.
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