An Unforgettable Teacher

(This was written by a student to a NH Tutor Doctor tutor. Please note that this is a classic sonnet abab cdcd efef gg!)

Mrs. Mainey,

When I began your class I think I knew
The kind of challenges you’d make me face.
You gave me motivation to pursue
The best, and to reject the commonplace.

Your thinking really opened up my mind.
With wisdom, style and outgoingness, you made me see,
That what I’d choose to seek, I’d surely find;
You shook me out of my complacency.

I thank you now for everything you’ve done,
What you have taught me I will not outgrow.
Your kind attention touched my mind and heart,
In many ways that you will never know.

I will remember you my whole life through,
I wish that all my teachers were like you.

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Chronically Absent Students – a story from the New York Times, May 17, 2012


Up to 15 percent of American children are chronically absent from school, missing at least one day in 10 and doing long-term harm to their academic progress, according to a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

They argue that policy makers tend to look at absenteeism in the wrong way, requiring districts and states to measure average daily attendance rates, but — with the exception of a few states — not focusing on the relatively small number of students who account for most absences. They found that some schools report an average of more than 90 percent daily attendance, masking the fact that 40 percent of their students are chronically missing.

“We don’t see the problem clearly because, in most places, we don’t measure it, and average daily attendance really skews the way we view this,” said one of the authors, Robert Balfanz, a research professor at the university’s School of Education.

Many studies have linked frequent absence to low academic achievement and high dropout rates; recent studies of children in New York, Chicago and other cities suggest that attendance may predict a student’s academic progress as effectively as test scores do. Poor children —who stand to benefit most from attending school — are also more likely to miss school.

Professor Balfanz and Vaughan Byrnes, a research associate, found that only six states — Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon and Rhode Island — measure chronic absenteeism, as do some local systems, including New York City and Oakland, Calif. Based on data from those states, they estimated that in a given school year, nationwide, more than 10 percent and possibly as many as 15 percent of students miss at least one day in 10.

Though the states report the data in different ways, making direct comparisons difficult, Oregon had the highest rate, with 23 percent of all students missing 10 percent of their school days or more.

While truancy — unexcused absences — and illness play a part, the researchers said the primary problem is absences that are optional but excused with a parent’s permission.

“There are so many efforts at school reform, but what people overlook is that none of them work if the kids don’t show up,” said Marie Groark, executive director of the Get Schooled Foundation, a nonprofit group that commissioned the Johns Hopkins study.

She said she became aware of the issue while teaching at a public high school in the Bronx. “There might have been 35 kids theoretically in my class,” she said, “but on any given day, only 20, 25 were there, and it wasn’t the same 20 or 25 from one day to the next, so we were always playing catch-up.”

A few states and local school systems are taking steps to address the problem. Alabama and Virginia have automated systems that look at warning signs, like frequent absences, to identify students who are at a greater risk of dropping out.

Nonprofit groups formed recently to promote attendance and to lobby for better data collection, like Get Schooled and Attendance Works. Hedy N. Chang, director of Attendance Works, called the Johns Hopkins study an important milestone.

Experts say that in the last two years, New York City, where 20 percent of public school students are chronically absent, has built one of the strongest campaigns against the problem. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg set up a task force to address it, with officials from several agencies —from social services to law enforcement — that had long worked with the schools but had not shared information with each other.

“As early as sixth grade, we could have known that kids were on the train to drop out, and too often our efforts in the past began when it was too late,” said John Feinblatt, senior policy adviser to the mayor and head of the task force.

Some of the resulting projects include automated wake-up calls from athletes and other celebrities to about 30,000 at-risk students, urging them to go to school.

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Winner-1st Annual February Vacation Photo Contest

What a win! These are the Breault twins, Max & Ben, from Nottingham…skiing at Mont Tremblant, Quebec. (submitted by Joan Breault)

Breault Twins Quebec

Max & Ben Breault skiing at Mont Tremblant, Quebec

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Is My Child Dyslexic? 9 Warning Signs by Jenny Paradise on

During the years of learning to read and write, it is common for kids to mix-up new words and letters. Young minds routinely twist a “b” into a “d” or a “g” into a “q”—it’s a natural part of the learning process. But when could these innocent slip-ups signal a deeper issue, like dyslexia? Read the full article by following this link.

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Are you ready for the big Fall transition?


Are you Ready for the Big Fall Transition?

 As for adults, transitions can be difficult even if the changes are welcome.  We sometimes forget that children struggle with transition as well, if not more, as they have not yet acquired the skills to maneuver their feelings and understand how to reach out for support.

Whether your student is going back to the same school or entering a new one, seeing the same old friends or being bused to a new town, or maybe even repeating a class.  September is one of the most difficult months of the year as change is coming from all directions.  August is a great month to start preparing your student for that transitional month.  Forming a positive relationship with a tutor over the summer is key to helping your student make a seamless, supportive transition back to a great school year.  It’s never too late to start!

As always, if you have something to contribute send me a note at


Allison Neal


In The News

Washington Post  (June 6, 2011): D.C.’s Bruce-Monroe school tries Singapore math method                             A close look at the D.C. school points up the challenges involved in transplanting a “math miracle” from Asia. These include high levels of student mobility, instructor turnover and a curriculum that proponents say requires a depth of understanding most U.S. elementary teachers don’t acquire in their math training.

In the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, Singapore ranked second in the world in fourth-grade math, just behind Hong Kong. The United States placed 11th. Singapore also has excelled on other international tests. (read more)

Eagle Tribune ( July 19, 2011) NH Tenure Change makes some happy some not                                             

Last week, Gov. John Lynch allowed Senate Bill 196 to become law without his signature. New teachers must now work five years in a school district, instead of only three, to receive tenure.

The law’s intent is to remove substandard teachers from the classroom and give school administrators more time to assess the performance of educators, according to House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon. (read more)


Transition to Middle school

Elementary to Middle school and Middle school to High school are big transition years for students and families.  Not only is there typically a physical location change but you also have all the familiar faces changing, expectations changing, homework load and sometimes even a start-and-end time change.  Below I have listed a few articles from some great organizations that can help prepare your student for the year to come.

NEA Transition to Middle School  Peter Lorain     A key indicator of a successful middle school experience is a positive transition from elementary school. Unfortunately, positive anything is difficult for soon-to-be middle school students, if all they can think about is: (read more).

Scholastic  Making the Transition    For many kids, the transition to middle school couldn’t come at a worse time. Just as your child is wrestling with her own rollercoaster emotions, just as she’s struggling to understand and accept the physical changes in her body — all of which make her alternately distracted, forgetful, anxious, self-conscious, and argumentative — everything about the school day is changing too. (read more)

National High School Center  Easing the Transition to High School     The transition from middle school to high school represents a significant event in the lives of adolescents, one that necessitates support from, and collaboration among, teachers, parents, counselors, and administrators at both educational levels. Successful transitions place particular emphasis on ninth-grade initiatives and can create one of strongest bridges from middle to high school and beyond. This toolkit contains four resources—a fact sheet, policy brief, research brief, and snapshot—on how to supp ort and guide a smooth transition into high school. (read more)


Summer Learning

Still looking for some great summer stimulus? Here are some of my suggestions:

The RSVP Pen Pal program unites elementary students and senior citizens by matching students with local senior citizens with whom they will correspond throughout the school year. Established in 2006 the program pairs an elementary school aged child with a senior citizen volunteer and the two of them write to each other about their family, their pets and their favorite activities, among other topics. By being paired with a student, the caring RSVP senior hopes to foster an interest in reading and letter writing to improve language, written communication, and social skills. For more information click here

Enterprise City  At Enterprise City, students take on the roles of employers, employees, government officials, consumers and citizens.  They work in a variety of businesses, organizations and government agencies.  EC lets students apply and reinforce lessons learned in the classroom in a real-life setting.  Most schools experience improved test scores and increased student attendance rates from students who experience Enterprise City.  Learn more here

Summer Writing Camps  Offered by Layne Case of Amity Publications our local children’s book author.  The six week program (one hour per week or 6 hours) has been turned into a one week writing camp (12.5 hours total).  This is for those children who prefer an “indoor” camp experience while maintaining reading and writing skills throughout the summer.  The program includes math and collaborative learning skills, and, it promises to build self-esteem.  “Campers” will become “authors” in a fun and creative setting.    Writing Camps will be held in July and August.  For more information and to register clic k here.

Summer Science Projects  School to Family   The summer months provide a great opportunity for students to work on projects that help extend some of the ideas they might have learned during the school year or to pursue ideas that they might not have had a chance to do in the classroom.  Here is just a short list of projects that could help prevent the summer slide in science and technology.  click here .


Be Sure to See Us at These Events

Summer 2011 – Cochecho Arts Festival  Dover, NH.  Buy your button in support of the summer long music and arts programing and receive your Instant Benefits coupon pack loaded with special offers from local merchants.  Tutor Doctor is offering one free hour of tutoring valued up to $59. For more information and to purchase a button visit .

August 6th – Family Day at Maudsley State Park   10 am – 2 pm  Family Day attracted almost 2,000 visitors to this event last year (which is largely free) and it’s a great time for kids, “tweens” and parents. This year is going to be over the top jam packed with events going on all day. We are hoping to have 25+ free activities, arts and crafts, sports games, demonstrations, clowns, pony rides, free face painting, etc… for more information visit Yankee Home Coming .

August 13th- Summer Reads “One World, Many Stories” Barrington   11am – 1 pm The closing program for all children and families are invited to an ice cream social sponsored by Tutor Doctor of New Hampshire followed by a performance of Absolutely Magic. Event to take place in the town gym located under the Barrington public library.


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Parenting NH Favorite Family Friendly Survey

It’s time to vote for the best family-friendly businesses, services and people in New Hampshire! Family Favorites is a new award program and NH businesses need your vote. Categories include: best dentist, best child care facility, best restaurant, best OB/GYN, best yoga class and more! Use the link below to place your votes.

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How Does Education Work? Can a 19th Century System Be Meaningful in the 21st?

Sir Ken Robinson, recipient of the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin award and expert of education and creativity has released two amazingly insightful animation and narration videos concerning the current state of the educational system and what can be done to understand its strengths and weaknesses, and improve it in the future.

The first video is about 11 minutes long and well worth a watch.

RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms

If you are interested in a much more in depth narration, watch the full version of his lecture below.

Sir Ken Robinson – Changing Paradigms

Understanding how something works is the first step towards improving it. If we are ignorant of the the history and philosophy behind our education systems, we cannot hope to change it in ways that will make them more effective in our current society.

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