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Many children classified as emotionally disturbed may have a "social-learning disability" that prevents them from correctly reading or giving nonverbal cues, recent studies suggest.

Stephen Nowicki Jr., a psychologist at Emory University, has developed a test to measure how well children communicate through gestures, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues.

He found that almost all of the emotionally disturbed children he tested had difficulties with nonverbal communication skills that may lead them to alienate other children and sour their interactions with teachers.

"Like kids who can't read words, these are kids who can't read facial expressions correctly," Mr. Nowicki said.

In studies of 1,017 normal and emotionally disturbed children age 6 to 11, Mr. Nowicki found that children who scored lowest on the test tended to be among the least popular in their class and to fare worse academically, even though their intelligence levels were as high as those of their peers.

Mr. Nowicki said he has attempted to train about 150 children to use nonverbal skills correctly, and the results have been positive. In some cases, he said, children with emotional disturbances appeared to completely overcome them.

Most adolescents who consider themselves "burnouts" differ from those who call themselves "jocks" in the basic structure of their social networks, and high schools tend to be structured in a way that disrupts "burnout" social networks and increases their alienation, a new book asserts.

Penelope D. Eckert, a research scientist at the Institute for Research on Learning, in Palo Alto, Calif., wrote Jocks and Burnouts following a four-year ethnographic study of students in five Detroit-area high schools.

She found that "jocks," whose social lives centered on their schools, tended to come from families with relatively higher socioeconomic status and to socialize in hierarchies that reflect status and age.

"Burnouts," who were alienated from schools and had social lives that were neighborhood-based, tended to come from families with relatively lower socioeconomic status and to be much more egalitarian in their social interactions, mixing with other age and status groups.

Ms. Eckert said the extremely hierarchical, stratified nature of schools tends to disrupt the social solidarity of "burnouts" and leave them stigmatized. They, in response, tend to disrupt school and to distance themselves from it.

Although China spends a much smaller percentage of its resources on education than does the United States, its children learn far more in elementary school, a recent study states.

Harold W. Stevenson, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, and his colleagues from China, Taiwan, and Japan administered specially constructed tests in reading and mathematics to a representative sampling of 7,000 1st- and 5th-grade students in the Chicago area and in Beijing; Taipei, Taiwan; and Sendai, Japan.

Earlier studies by Mr. Stevenson had focused on Japan and other Asian countries. But the latest study, scheduled to appear in the journal Child Development, was the first to include China, Mr. Stevenson said.

In mathematics, children from only one of 20 Chicago-area schools scored as well as the children in the worst of the Asian schools tested. This occurred even though the test covered problem-solving ability, which American schools are supposed to foster, as well as routine operations, on which Asian schools concentrate.

In reading, by the 5th-grade level, most Chinese children had progressed further than their American counterparts.

On the basis of interviews and classroom observations, Mr. Stevenson concluded that Chinese teachers are more effective than American ones, even though the former are not required to have any college training.

Mr. Stevenson attributed the effectiveness of Chinese teachers to the fact that they are given more time to prepare for class and can offer students more individual attention. They spend no more than three hours of their workday in classrooms, but they devote three times as much of their class time to teaching, he said.

Chinese teachers valued clarity and enthusiasm as teacher attributes, while American teachers stressed sensitivity, Mr. Stevenson said.

The National Center for Effective Schools Research and Development has moved from Okemos, Mich., to the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Officials at the center said a need for university services prompted them to move last month to the Center for Educational Research at the University of Wisconsin School of Education.

The center, which had operated as a private nonprofit entity, brings with it a projected $500,000 a year in grants.

The Institute for Educational Research, a nonprofit consortium based in Glen Ellyn, Ill., has established an awards program to recognize outstanding educational research.

Entries for the i.e.r. Action Research in Schools Awards are due Nov. 1 and can be submitted by individuals or by schools, school systems, or educational agencies. For more information, call (312) 858-8060.--ps

Vol. 09, Issue 08

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