How to tell a balance bike is suitable for you

Right when the hype of balance bike is still in town, the raising demand for a suitable bike comes along. Just like any other commercial products, balance bike brands vary from segmentation: Skuut Balance Bike for toddler, ZÜM-CX balance bike, Janod wooden scooter balance bike… If you are not convinced by the one-size-fits model faltered in marketing, here are some tips for you to pick out the most suitable balance bike.

Seat Height

First of all, kids grow really fast, the height of a one-year-old and a five-year-old is vastly different so they cannot use the same bike. The suggested minimum seat height is 1″ to 1.5″ below your child’s inseam. (you should not just choose randomly a bike with seat height range from 10″ to 26.7″). How to measure your child’s inseam? Easy, make them pinch a hardbound book between their legs, raise the book up slowly till it reached their crotch, then level the book with the floor. There you go, the distance from the top of the book and the ground is your child’s inseam (measure without shoes)


To most kids, size 12’’ is right to start with although size available ranges from 10’’ to 20’’ tires. However, even in 12’’ bikes, the frames size is various (for those grade-schooler who have learn to drive, the larger 16’’ is more popular) so we prefer selecting based on seat height than tire size.


Pneumatic (standard air), solid foam, plastic and rubber (solid and honeycomb) are common material to make balance bike tires although pneumatic (air) and foam are the most favorite. Providing the most traction and cushion, air tires are considered the best all-around.

For all-terrain bikers, knobby tread of air tires are certain choice (for example, FirstBIKE Cross, Scoot Premium and Muna). For the average riders whose mainly ride on paved surfaces, a standard street tread works just perfectly. For curb-jumping or stake part, an extra cushion is needed. And don’t forget tire sealant for their preventing flats.

Regarding of tire material, manufactures often chooses plastic, rubber and foam because of the low prices, puncture proof and light textures. Their drawbacks are less traction and little or no cushioning. Foam tires ranks first place in the popular competition and suitable for paved surface riders but they are not good for all-terrain surface or smooth floors. The tread can wear away over time too. Solid rubber tires, on the opposite, has the most traction but no cushioning. Coming at third place, thanks to their internal sealed air rooms, honeycomb tires prevents flats.

Concerning the rule which says your bikes weight should never exceed 30% of your body’s weight, lighter bikes are not also easy for toddler to use but also convenient for their parents to carry.

Feet are natural brakes for balance bike riders but it’s not an excuse to not have an extra hand brake. A child-sized brakes is well designed enough for a 3-5 years old with normal eye/hand coordination. A brakes is extremely beneficial because it can prevent injury, save shoes and prepare for pedal bike later. A hand brake for toddler should be a short-reach lever as their hands are too small to use kids bike.

Turning Limiters

Turning limiters minimize injuries caused by sharp turns, fall or twisted brake cables. By preventing the front wheel and the handlebar from a full revolution. Perform nearly as training wheels, these limiters are actually not counting a major part in purchase decision. However, poorly-designed limiters should be avoid because they cut down on the bike’s turning radius. An elastic limiters are preferred for gentle correction and removable.


This part of a bike is not compulsory unless you have a long hill for them to go down.

Frame Materials

Balance bikes can be made from metal, wood and composite frames.

Metal bikes refer to steel or aluminium alloys which add up to the weight capacity. Aluminium bikes are usually lighter than steel frames bikes. Although steel frame can rust and weigh more, they can hold a rider whose weighs more than themselves while aluminium frame cannot. Wood are environmentally friendly material. A high-end wood bike can last for years with proper care while lower-end fall apart rather quickly. No matter high-end or low-end, wood balance bikes are less adjustable than other material. Composite frames are made from nylon and glass fiber, has high weight capacity and no worry of rust or chipping paint.

Recessed, Covered and rounded Bolts

Exposed bolts may scratch inner legs after some time using. For smaller-framed toddlers, recessed, covered and rounded bolts can avoid problem of scratches.

Above is everything you need to know about balance bike. Good luck!

Exercises For Kids

Kids are now a days very much introvert. Due to having much of the modern technological advancement in recent years, they have found so many things to indulge themselves at home. For this reason, there is a growing concern for not the kids being taken into physical exercises.

So in this article, we will try to elucidate some of the great exercises that can be adopted by the kids enjoyably. Read on and explore, and of course do not forget to implement these great and pleasurable exercises in your kid’s life.


What Made These Exercises Great?

Though we have not mentioned about the exercises yet, we are going to tell you the basic thing about those that will attract your children.

Always try to hand over some exercises to your kids that do not seem to be an exercise to them at all. If your kid thinks that the given things are some sort of exercises, then he or she will have hard time doing those. So it is advisable to consider something playful that can keep them enjoying. Our main goal is that here. We will focus on those types of exercises that are of great pleasure.


Like before, we are bound to place this outdoor activity at the first position as it is a source of great exercise, but what your kid thinks about it? Your kid considers biking as a game, not just an exercise. By the though they do about biking, makes them continue the thing regularly. Another mentionable thing is that kids will be unlikely to do things regularly if they think that are on type of exercise.
So never ever try to focus on the word exercise, rather mention it as an outdoor activity or a game.
Riding a bike gives your child an immense pleasure and makes them do the thing willingly as well. But be aware of the perfect bike for your kid. Initially, at an early stage of your child, you can go for a balance bike. Click Here to read review of balance bikes where from you could grasp some important knowledge about it.
Be cautious about the road or place where your kids will ride the bike. Teach them some primary knowledge of being safe at the time of riding a bike. This will help them prevent much of the risk factors.



Walking is always a good exercise without any issues. Decide a safe place where your kid can walk regularly. It can also be your rooftop as a walking street.


Yes, this is such type of exercise that does not need any special thing to buy for your kid. You see your kids always run usually. So you may have a question regarding the point of running of your kids! No actually you should maintain a regular running process on them. Running can be done through a lot of games such as football, cricket, basketball, badminton etc.

You can get your child any one of them to have a regular running habit.
Running can also be freestyle. Such as you can take your kid along with you to a road or an open field where you both may have a running for some time. This exercise will not be understandable by your kid as he or she will find it relaxing and exploring new things.


Swimming is an exercise that helps be healthy regardless of the ages. It can equally give benefit to you and your kid. Swimming needs much effort to carry on, but in reality it can not be realized that you have given so much effort in it.
But be aware of this exercise as your kid should always be in close supervision to avoid all sorts of risks. You can get your kid a swimming tube or a life jacket to make him or her safe fully.
The main purpose of taking an exercise is to burn calories. But in reality this actually helps kids grow their mental efficiency too. So an exercise should always be a regular companion of your kid. But it should be said again that never push your kid for an exercise. Value his or her choice of exercise. Whatever fruitful exercise your kid takes, allow him or her to continue that.

Tips For Mountain Biking And Its Types

You must get to know proper types of mountain biking when you think of travelling with your best bikes around. You may find good bikes that help you to get the right thing for you. Also you must know all the tips related to mountain biking. You must check for the best mountain bikes 2015 that will guide you with proper bikes for you.

This mountain biking has now became popular and is the best outdoor game to play and good way to stay fit. This game helps to burn many calories and with making it best exercise. You may get great activity with this sport.

You may find different types of mountain bikes that are present and the best type will be used for making your life easier. Try getting those bikes that will fulfill your needs and requirements.

You must know the types of bike available for you. They are:

  • Mountain bikes named as XC Cross Country

This is known to be the most popular and the best mountain bike. These are favorite one for the riders who are at the beginner’s level. These types of bikes are less in weight and provide you with unlimited advantages and can be used high up to the hills. These bikes are best to use. You may find them hard tails and it totally depends on the type that you use for the riding purpose.

You must know many advantages that must be followed on the rougher terrain and help to make your bike easy and run it with good quality.

  • Other named as DH Downhill Mountain Bikes

The most attractive one is this type of mountain bikes that helps to perform heavy duty work and is great for the downhill bikers that will make their own specifications and this will help to let the biking done easily.

You must be well trained before using this type of mountain bike as it is not easy to use for the people who are at the beginner’s level. You must wear helmet when using this type of bikes and also you must take protective measures with you when using these types of mountain bikes.

  • PRO specialized Mountain Bikes

You may find some great bikes for the professional to use that may help them to get the right bike for them and in this way they may get the right thing for them. This includes bike for people who are expert and also are skillful and are good at their profession.  For racing with other users these bikes are recommended. These are good quality bikes and are less weight as well and are not cheap while purchasing it and such bikes are only be used by the riders who are most expert in such work.

These bikes are made in such a way that they are strong enough and can be used easily when needed in hard times.

  • Leisure bikes for mountain:

The high tech and great specification mountain bikes these are preferable and are available in different ranges. You may start easily with these bikes and are best for families and for everyone.

For comfort of riding you may get full benefit and can help your child to get avail from it.

You must after selecting Best Mountain bikes get to know proper tips that are must to learn for starting.

Precautions and safety for Mountain Bike:

You must keep all the safety measures properly with you that will guide you to get the right way for using mountain bikes. The right location must be used for your mountain bikes with proper budget and this will definitely help you to enjoy your trip to mountain easily without difficulty.

You may wear helmet for your safety and must contain all the necessary things that are helpful when going towards mountain. These tips will make it easier for you to learn the best ways to travel through the mountains and get benefit from this. You may find different reviews on different websites that may guide you to properly work on the bikes and this help you to get the right thing done. You may also learn more from different resources.

The Particular Golf Buddy GPS: A Golfer’s Dream Helper

Golf Friend includes a great status for manufacturing precise golfing GPS techniques which are easy to use plus include free program downloads. There are many explanations why many golfers through newbie to professional swear by these GPS systems. Moreover if you purchase the perfect product, you should read the golf gps watch reviews first. One main feature that units this company’s items in addition to the remaining products on theámarket is that their own official web site provides a lot more than 20, 500 course maps online cost-free. It is also mostly of the companies offering program downloads outside theáUnited States of America. Another advantage is the fact that the procedure of installingáprograms from the web site is without headaches, in comparison to a few of its rivals.Golf Ball

The display images on the Golfing Friend GPS units are usually just about second in order to non-e. You can easily see theáinformation displayed as well as the images switch while you move through the entire courseáfrom hole-to-hole.

The machine actually gives you the chance to pick from three various sights: 1) opening view, 2)áeco-friendly view and 3) target view. Golfers also like the truth that the particular GPS is quiteásimple to use combined with the fact that the particular display itself provides excellentávisibility within all-weather áproblems. You may also adjust the comparison if necessary toámatch bright sunlight or even dark cloudy

The Golf Friend GPS represents an excellent value for money in comparison to a few of theáother hottest golfing GPS systems on the market. At the right time of this writing, it is coming in at around $299 which usually an extremely affordable cost for such a top quality golf Globalápositioning system.

The truth that it includes a water-resistant design attracts many customers. The Golf Friendáfurthermore tracks your own rating as you perform and provides you precise variety distancesáand also target icon pictures. A lot of their clients have reported they have received outstandingácustomer support from the tech support team group and the website is simple to navigate.áPossibly the major downside to the particular Golf Buddy GPS is that the website is Windows PCásuitable, so if you certainly are a MAC user you may find it difficult to use then.áBut all of us help you check back again with the business’s web site for some recent info and up-dates about this. Most customers possess reported these products match perfectly within theiráhand plus they actually has a clip-on owner to be able to easily simply clip these devices foráyour belt. Additional useful accessories will be the vehicle charger and another holder

manufactured to squeeze in the golf trolley.

Overall, the Golfing Buddy GPS is really a top-notch sport enhancing product that’s available ináa realistic price. Most golf players who’ve used one are usually delighted along with theámerchandise and might suggest it with their friends.

Follow these safety instructions for a safe e-scooter driving

One of the best things about e-scooters, electric powered motorcycles and mopeds is that it really feels nice and fun to drive them. People from all walks of life can be seen driving them such as youngsters, children and even adults.Helmet for kids

However, there is one thing which strikes every mind and it is safety. Yes, you cannot compromise on the safety factor even when you are driving at a speed of 20 to 30 miles per hour only. Let us try to look into some important safety instructions that you should always follow while driving e-scooters. These safety instructions will help everybody minimize the risk of an accident as well as injuries.

Helmet should be of prime importance

  • The first and the foremost safety instructions that a person should follow is to make sure that proper safety gear is used. Among all the things, a helmet is the most important because it protects your head.
  • If recent news is to be believed, every year thousands of cyclists die because of head injuries than any other type of injury. It all happens because they do not wear helmet or are ignorant. Hence, always make sure that a high quality helmet is bought and worn while driving the best adult electric scooters.

Rules should be followed strictly

  • Rules of the road must be learnt by heart and there should be any doubt while following all of them. Hence, it is always good to make yourself aware about the rules such as crossings, speed limits, light points and turn signals so that a safe drive can be ensured.
  • If you have an electric scooter that does not come with turn signals then make sure to slow down your speed while turning left or right and waive your hand in the respective direction. This needs to be done at least 5 seconds before turning so that the person behind you can determine your direction and act accordingly. The good news is that the best electric scooter on the market is available with turn signals.

Approach intersections with utmost care and caution

  • Kid safeIntersections are the most dangerous spots on the road and hence, you need to be extra cautious while approaching intersections. Slow down your speed and check your left and right and the light signal before moving ahead.
  • Apart from taking care while approaching intersections, you should also make sure that knee and elbow pads are worn while driving the electric scooters.
  • These days there are many online as well as retail shops which are selling different types of safety gear such as elbow pads, knee pads and helmets.

How to buy the high quality safety gear?

  • One of the best ways to buy the high quality safety wear is through online shop. But you need to make sure that proper research is being done so that the best online shop can be contacted.
  • It is always good to read reviews and feedback about the shop before zeroing on to anything. This will help you get the best quality items that are not only durable but also highly reliable.
  • You can also save some money after reading about the latest deals and discount offers. It feels really nice to save some money and use that money for upgrading the existing e-scooter.

Safety is all about proper knowledge and taking informed decision. The above mentioned points can help you get excellent information and will also help to ensure maximum safety for your loved ones.

Have a happy and safe riding!


Few kids wouldn’t trade all the bicycles and BB guns in the world for the gift of a puppy. As surely as a pup will steal your heart, however, it will break it if not properly cared for. That’s just one of many lessons that a child who is given a pup will learn over time. A dog can be the perfect gift to help teach youngsters about caring for animals and the importance of discipline in general. Kids who learn to care for a dog and understand that the animal relies on them for everything–from food and water to love and guidance–often develop an appreciation for what it takes to be a responsible individual.


Kid Walking with Dog

While it’s tempting to surprise your child with the gift of a puppy, it’s wiser to involve your kid in the educational process of looking at the differing virtues of various breeds, understanding what’s required to raise and train a pup, and examining how much time is involved, Only after you’re certain your son or daughter is ready for such a commitment should you seriously entertain the idea of purchasing a pup.

Beyond merely showing your child how to care for the dog, share in teaching your son or daughter how to train your pup to obey basic commands. The process of training a dog, to be sure, begins by teaching its owner how to train Pup. Your child will need to learn the importance of being consistent with commands, correcting the dog when it makes mistakes and rewarding it when it has done well–an important lesson in the ways of the world. In a family setting, it’s important that Pup come to understand who is boss and that it knows it won’t be able to get away with bad behavior. Too often, many family members bombard the dog with commands but never make the dog perform the tasks asked of it; thus, in the end, only encouraging it to disobey. When it comes time to take Pup afield, that willfulness will be problematic.

It’s also important to note that young children are more prone than any other age group to being bitten by dogs. There are several reasons for this. First off, young kids often stand about eye-level with many medium to large size dogs, so when they put their faces next to dogs’ faces, it’s sometimes construed by the dogs as a threatening gesture. This also explains why so many kids who are bit by dogs suffer bites to the face. Another reason for this phenomenon is that kids often pull on a dog’s ears or tail, not understanding that they are hurting the animal. Older dogs seem especially sensitive to this kind of harassment, so caution youngsters against this to prevent any dog-child mishaps.

Lastly, a dog will teach your son or daughter about the cycle of life–including the finality of death and the heartache of saying goodbye to a cherished companion for the last time. It’s in that lesson that a person comes to value the treasure of life for the gift that it is.


For anyone contemplating starting someone on the rood to dog ownership and training, Gene Hill’s Sunlight and Shadows is a delightful read that is not a how-to book per se but is extraordinarily revealing about life shared with dogs. It is a collection of essays from one of America’s greatest sporting authors. Few people captured the joy and melancholy that surrounds dog ownership any better than the late Gene Hill. The book is available from Wilderness Adventures Press;

Child online! Where are the best sites for kids’ education and entertainment We’ve been checking out safe playgrounds

The Web offers thousands of fun, stimulating, interactive learning and entertainment destinations for kids. It can seem a scary place if you’re lost, though – for adults and children. So how do you find the best sites for your kids – the ones that are safe, and also fun? And how can you work out which ones they (not you) will actually enjoy?

Try our selection below. We’ve looked at sites aimed at kids from pre-school age through to those in their early teens, and found some great jokes, cartoons, games, Harry Potter gossip, Web design, search engines and homework help sites.

To see what kids really think of them, we’ve enlisted the help of a couple of young reviewers. Daniel Walrond, aged 13, rates our selection of cartoon and jokes sites. And Lili Cooper, aged 11, gives her verdict on the best places for girl talk and online advice.

Early learning



Brilliant colours, cute sounds, funky picture icons and simple navigation should get the attention of pre-school kids here. They can clap and wiggle to the Tikkabilla Jive, help Tiny fix the Little Robots’ houses, and listen to Little Red Riding Hood -just by moving the mouse. The Tweenies at and Teletubbies at also want to play.


Letterland’s pictogram characters – Eddy Elephant, Oscar Orange and friends-offer fun ways of learning how to read and write.

Bob the Builder

Time to develop those DIY skills by helping Bob tidy his tool shed and lit radiators in Wendy’s house. The simple layout and picture-based navigation on this site are great for kids, but it doesn’t explain to parents how their children can get the most out of the site.


Noddy, Wind in the Willows, Watership Dawn, Mozart the Musical Dragon and the Mr Men are all herein fantastic animated stories and games.

Thomas & friends

Thomas the Tank Engine fans can find their favourite character in the Engine Depot, play Snap, or give Percy a new coat of paint at this fun destination. The site is very text-heavy, but compensates by give in you the opportunity to design your own Thomas Web page.

Nick Jr.

The Playtime section of Nickelodeon’s junior website is packed with arc and music projects and animated stories for kids, and printable resources for parents. (heck out Dora’s 3D world, where the skies are blue and the birds are signing, and join heron a driving game or a pyramid adventure.

Try out the latest game pads at Kidstime

F9 Kids

Follow super space girl Bumble-B into the F9-Kids space station and splat as many space moles as you can! This is an exciting animated site, full of Solar System facts.


Webmonkey for Kids Kids can learn to build their own websites with Webmonkey, which will take them through the basics of writing HTML and creating images in easy steps. There’s a series of simple but exciting projects to get them started. /webmonkey/kids

CBBC Cartoon Maker Write and direct your own episode of the UBOS cartoon, and send it your friends. /cartoons/ubos


How do you distinguish the funny sites from the downright disgusting? Where are the best interactive cartoons? Where are the games that your kids will really en joy? And are they ‘suitable? Daniel gave us his opinions on some of the best sites we could find…

This offering from Comedy Central is Daniel’s favourite site, and he wanted us to mention it. However, it does contain adult content, and the jokes are rated from ‘squeaky clean’ to ‘racy’ for parental guidance. This might be a teenage boy’s paradise, but it’s probably not a parent’s favourite site.


“Some of the jokes are really Funny. They also do insults. But parents needn’t worry because you’re told how rude a joke is beforehand.”

Cartoon Network

The great cartoon shorts on this site feature The Chopper Bunch, Sugar Ray and Hong Kong Phooey in action. You can also play Meteor Mayhem and Swamp Fever, or download free ringtones, icons, screensavers and wallpaper.


“Cartoon Network has great games.”

Nickelodeon Online

There’s music, messageboards, movies and more here, and the games section’s great. We enjoyed testing ourselves against opponents from all over the planet in Cranial Crunch. 30 games, multi-player games, arcade games, sports games, brain games – there’s endless amusement here.


“Quite good, although you do need to log in to play the games.”


From Bounce Out, to Candy Cruncher, to Mah Jong Solitaire — there are masses of games in the Entertainment section of this site. The book and film reviews from Oinkle the pig and Grrbert the tiger are an added bonus.


“Looks quite babyish, but has some surprisingly funny games.”


Lose yourself with the 101 Dalmatians, catch the bouncing penguins, play Pooh’s Honeypot Challenge, enjoy the online comics, and enter the snowboarding holiday competition.


“I couldn’t play the games because of all the Casino adverts.”

This is a ‘family’ jokes site, so think ‘knock Knock’ and ‘Doctor Doctor. The 12,177 jokes here are all scrupulously dean.


“Alame site. The occasional joke is a bit funny. But it’s quite disappointing considering there are over 10,000 jokes and riddles


Looking for something specific — planets, dinosaurs, fashion? Check out these search engines and portals.

Ask Jeeves Kids

Lycos Zone


Fact Monster


CyberSleuth Kids

Girl Talk

Where do girls really like to hang out and chat? Lili gives us her opinion…

Neopets is home to a community of over 40 million virtual pet owners around the world. Create a free pet and take it travelling, or just chat and play games with other owners.


“This is where I spend most of my time online, looking after my neopets, playing games, trading stuff, building my own guild website and hanging out with my friends.”


The design looks amateur, but this is a fun site filled with reviews, opinion, advice, message boards and cool stuff–by chicks, for chicks.


“I really liked it–lots of fun, good to look at, it doesn’t try too hard and I liked the range of opinions and ideas.”


A Pig Latin translator, Truth or Dare, Agony Aunt Em, plenty of opportunities to write and chat, and cool electronic gadgets to buy. What more could a girl want from a website?


“I liked the overall style and the problem page, but the articles were dull.”

A girl’s world

This is a bustling message board for girls–it’s the place to come to read extracts from other girls, diaries, talk about your dreams, and submit your stories.


“Some of the activities were very worthy, like learning to be a babysitter. I liked it, but had a problem with the fact that you needed to pay for lots of the stuff.”

Pink Panther

Sign up for your own personal Pink Planner, get creative in the Fan Art section, play pelmanism and read horoscopes. A fun site, although uncompromisingly pink.


“It took ages to load, and tried to put its own program on my computer, which was really irritating. A bit weird — not really my style, but I can see others might like it.”

What’s her face

There’s loads to do on this site–mix up the animated models, hair and clothes to invent new styles, make hair accessories out of chopsticks, create your own music video, or design a guy to have a crush on.


“A bit young for me, and too full of commercials for the dolls. if you like 5 Club 7 you’d probably go for it.”

Zodiac girls

The funky Zodiac girls will explain your star sign, assess your compatibility, read your magic fortune, and give you crush advice and fashion help. Or, you can dress them up and send them poems.


“OK for kids who like horoscopes. it was nice to see poems and letters from other kids.”


BBC Schools

Revision guides and learning resources for kids from Key Stage 2 through to A Level.

SATs Magic

Interactive help for six to 11 year-olds who want to pass their National Tests. /look_it_up/satsmagic

Homework High

Email homework questions to the experts at Channel 4.

Kevin’s Playroom

Produced and maintained by children, this site provides links to hundreds of useful learning resources.


Search by topic through this huge database of educational resources. W


Are you counting the days until Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix is released on 21st June or The Prisoner of Azkaban hits the cinemas in 2004? Share the anticipation…

The Official Harry Potter site

Enrol at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, make your own magical creature, challenge a friend at Quidditch, or chat to other Pottermaniacs at Platform 9 3/4.

Harry Potter

Learn more about the books, take the Wizard Challenge, submit a portrait, and meet J. K. Rowling at this publisher’s website.

Harry Potter from Bloomsbury

Pre-order your copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix here, or just chat on the Tabula Epistolarum message board.

The Snitch

Hundreds of photos and movie stills, and the latest news from Harry Potter film locations.

Harry Potter Guide

An unofficial guide to the magical world of The Boy Who Lived–wordy, but created by a fan.


Hogwarts isn’t the only place to learn magic tricks…

Magical Kingdom

Amaze your friends with Charlotte Bear’s impossible arm twist.

Mystery Net

Annoy grown-ups by making a coin vanish or a hanky stand up.

Kid Wizard

Learn magic, and how to conjure up slimy (but edible) potions like Bile Brew.


Touch the magic lamp and convince your friends you have eleven fingers… w

Walmsley, Heather

Don’t risk kids’ education on unproven ‘innovation’ pursue sound strategies instead of trial and error

A business that expects to thrive or even stay a business cannot afford a lack of innovative ideas. It is the lifeblood for growth and success. In today’s society, schools must be as innovative as successful businesses.

However, innovation in education can’t simply be trying something new. A school failure can do lasting damage not just to the students but to the students’ family, community, and society at large.

Take, for instance, the recent closure of Flanner House Elementary, one of Indiana’s first charter schools. The lives of nearly 200 minority and low-income students and their families were adversely affected when the school closed amid allegations of ISTEP cheating.

Charter schools in Indiana and throughout the country have been promoted as an innovative way to improve education. But the research is clear that there are some very good charter schools and some terrible ones, in rough proportion to traditional public schools.

As in the business world, educational innovations must be informed by research and evidence-based practices, because the outcome–how well a student learns–is so critical.

The research is unequivocal, for example, on the importance of having highly effective school leaders and teachers in charge of our schools and classrooms. Regardless of the type of school a child attends, the quality of the school leaders and teachers is the single most important school-based factor for student learning.

I was, therefore, dismayed that the Indiana State Board of Education, ignoring voluminous and virtually unanimous testimony by educators, education researchers and members of the public, voted to approve the Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability, or REPA III, during its Sept. 3 meeting. The rules provide for an adjunct “career specialist” permit that allows anyone with a bachelor’s degree and a 3.0 grade point average to enter a classroom as a teacher, bypassing any professional preparation for teaching.

Although board member Brad Oliver noted that there would be no measure of accountability on how prepared these new teachers would be, another board member who voted for the change said we should “give it a try” and “have some faith.”

Policymakers should not promote education “innovation” on faith alone. Even if the untrained career specialists permitted under REPA III prove ineffective and the board abandons this “faith-based” experiment in the future, what happens to the students robbed of a quality education while being taught by individuals who are not professional teachers?

Not just on REPA III, but across the full spectrum of education reform, we need to rethink entering into something new as a matter of just giving it a try. While Flanner House is now closed, the kids hurt by whatever poor and unethical instructional practices were in effect since the school opened in 2002 are unlikely to ever recover from the years of learning lost.

The most successful ideas are those that can be tested and replicated before they are implemented. Although something might well seem a reasonable and well-intentioned innovation, in education we should insist on data-based evidence.


For example, many years of well-designed, carefully conducted research point to the long-term benefits of preschool education. Early-childhood education is an example of a well-documented, evidence-based practice with proven results. Because the state lags in this regard, however, implementing a high-quality system of early-childhood education would be an important innovation in Indiana. We have the capacity to lead in this realm.

And while we invest in proven educational strategies, we must continue to research new approaches. That’s why the IU School of Education is partnering with the Kelley School of Business to offer an executive education program that allows school leaders to earn a master’s degree in strategic management at the Kelley School while completing a doctorate in educational leadership.

Likewise, the IU Effective Leaders Academy combines Kelley and School of Education faculty to work with struggling schools to develop research-based leadership strategies and create turnaround plans. Initial results of these multidisciplinary efforts are promising, but we must continue to evaluate the effects and learn from long-term implementation.

There are no silver bullets for education reform and improvement. But the stakes are too high to take chances with untried and unproven ideas. Effective innovation requires hard work and substantive research. Faith alone will not produce the desired results.


How far would you go for healthy kids? – Part 4


On certain dark days Alyson Babson wonders what the success of genetic screening could mean for the future of her daughter, Maggie. “If we stop having kids with CF,” she asks, “how will we get more drugs and therapies for those who do have it?”

“There is something strange,” adds Biesecker, the genetic counselor, “in that as a society we’re pouring money into cystic-fibrosis research–while pushing abortion of cystic-fibrosis fetuses.”

But experts say there’s little possibility that cystic fibrosis will disappear. “If the purpose of this screening program were to try to eliminate cystic fibrosis, it would be unsuccessful and also inappropriate,” says Michael Mennuti, M.D., the secretary of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “First of all, the test won’t get to everyone. Some important percentage will decide not to have the test, and some proportion wouldn’t terminate even after prenatal diagnosis. And there will still be an enormous interest in finding the definitive treatment and cure for this disease.”

The Rays are a perfect example of how eugenics–the science that aims to improve the human race by tinkering with genetic stock–works in the crazy muddle of modern life. In January 2000, eight of Cindy Ray’s embryos–then just eight-celled balls–were tested by a geneticist who searched the DNA for mutations in the cystic-fibrosis gene. Four of the embryos were CF carriers; the other four were free of mutations and were implanted in Cindy’s womb.

The Rays hoped that one of the four would develop into a child, but they got more than they bargained for. A sonogram at ten weeks turned up three heartbeats. “I had hopped out of one frying pan and into another,” says Cindy, adding, “We laughed for 30 minutes and cried for three days.” The triplets arrived two months early, and each spent from six to eight weeks in neonatal intensive care. The extra embryos will likely be donated to science. “Let’s face it,” Cindy says. “I’m not going to use any more of them to make babies.”

The in vitro-fertilization procedure that created the triplets cost $10,000; the genetic diagnosis, another $3,500. Insurance didn’t cover those costs, but it paid for the triplets’ births and hospitalizations–to the tune of $300,000. Cindy could have “reduced” her pregnancy to twins through a partial abortion, but that was not an option she would consider.

The Rays made a complex philosophical decision, one of the thousands, perhaps millions, of moral reckonings Americans are making in the era of cutting-edge medicine. Guided by their Mormon faith, the Rays oppose abortion to eliminate a fetus with cystic fibrosis. But they feel no such qualms about an embryo, which may be just a few weeks or days younger. “I don’t believe embryos are alive yet,” says Cindy Ray. “They can’t live to grow to be babies in a petri dish. I know it seems contradictory that I would never abort a child with CF but would go through such painstaking effort to have a child without CF. But if you look at it another way, technology is a gift from God, since there are some bleak cases of cystic fibrosis. But,” she adds, “there are wonderful people, like Cindy Lynn, too. And, you know, we would clone her. We really would.”

baby CF sreen



* The test isn’t 100 percent accurate. Most medical labs will check for only the 25 most common mutations. The result: Your child could be one of some 300 babies whose disease wouldn’t be caught by the CF screen.

* The test can’t tell you how severe your child’s condition may be. CF has more than 1,000 mutations, and they can greatly affect its seriousness, but scientists don’t yet know which gene combinations produce which symptoms. What’s more, several other factors, such as stress, family relationships, financial worries, and exposure to infection, can modify the effects of the disease.

* If you are not Caucasian, you are still at risk. Testing generally isn’t offered to non-Caucasian women, because their risk is substantially lower, but you may want to consider it anyway. About one in 29 Caucasians in America carries a single copy of the CF gene, compared to about one in 46 Hispanics, one in 60 African Americans, and one in 90 Asian Americans. That translates into a risk factor of one out of 2,500 Caucasian babies being born with CF, versus one in 8,500 for Hispanic couples, one in 15,000 for African American couples, and one in 32,000 for Asian American couples. Mixed-race couples in which one partner is white may also want to be tested. Many insurers pay for the test; if yours won’t, you’ll pay about $260.

* If you skip testing, your newborn can still be screened. At least eight states (New York, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Colorado, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California) now require, or soon will require, hospitals to screen newborns for CF. You can also ask your pediatrician to have your baby tested.

For more information on cystic fibrosis, contact the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation ( or the International Association of Cystic Fibrosis Adults ( For information on genetic screening, look up statements on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ website ( or on the site of the American College of Medical Genetics (

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How far would you go for healthy kids? – Part 3


Prepared for what, some critics of screening ask. “Geneticists talk about `making informed choices,'” says Barbara Biesecker, genetic counselor at the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. “But there are lots of concerns that genetics is just a search-and-destroy mission, which in a sense it is.”

From an insurer’s perspective, the justification for screening thousands of Americans for cystic fibrosis is to save the $1 million or so it costs to provide care for the average CF patient. In other words, screening for the disease doesn’t make much sense unless at least some parents choose to abort.

“It’s impossible to calculate the loss of someone who is never born,” says Richardson. Although she has cystic fibrosis, her husband was never tested for the CF gene, and Richardson herself turned down prenatal testing during both her pregnancies.

“We felt that whatever the results were, we wanted to have these children, so it didn’t matter,” she says. “If we’re going to start eliminating part of the population because they have cystic fibrosis, what does that say about my life?”

Some patients say that CF actually enriches their lives. “We really want to live to the fullest,” says Sufian. “Fighting cystic fibrosis makes you appreciate how precious life is.”

cystic fibrosis

Other patients say that such talk glosses over tragedy. “Being diagnosed with cystic fibrosis didn’t make me empathetic or a stronger or nicer person,” says Cat Williams, 31, of Charlotte, North Carolina. Williams has two rare mutations and wasn’t diagnosed until she was 23 years old and working as a film sound technician in New York. Her constant cough made her unwelcome on the set; now her health has deteriorated so much that she can no longer work at all. “I think people who are `thankful’ to have CF are trying to look on the bright side,” Williams says. “It’s their way of coping.”

For people who are poor or who lack good health coverage, even coping takes a monumental effort. Moore was working as a marketing director for a general contractor in Austin, Texas, when she discovered that her son had CF. Day care “was no longer an option,” because CF patients are so sensitive to germs. Moore, a single mom, had to quit her job and become homeless–moving into friends’ houses for a few months at a time–for two years to get her child on Medicaid. Moore recently returned to work but still has no medical insurance (even if she did, she might not be covered; many insurers define CF as a preexisting illness and refuse to pay for drugs that can cost $48,000 a year). To continue to get state-sponsored care for Jacob, Moore has to stay under the poverty line. “I can’t make a cent more than $19,000 or there goes his insurance,” she says.

“I recently had two friends die as a result of CF, and one was only 17,” says a 26-year-old Atlanta woman who asked not to be identified. “He struggled with his health for his entire life. He had multiple surgeries to try to stop bleeding in his lungs. As for me, my life has been put on hold while I wait for a lung transplant.” She then added: “If I were to advise parents who have the CF gene, I would encourage them to think long and hard about how important it is to have their own children rather than adopt.”

Even Cindy Lynn agrees with her parents that avoiding a life with CF is the better option. As a younger child, she’d wanted a sibling with cystic fibrosis “because I felt like that would give me someone who would understand me. But by the time I was a little older, I realized I really didn’t want them to have CF. They could have it even worse than me. And going through what I go through isn’t fun.”

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