Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

March 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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This Week’s “Round-Up” Of Good Posts & Articles On Education Policy

'Badgers & Packers Hats, MN Teachers Signs' photo (c) 2011, brads651 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Here are some recent useful posts and articles on educational policy issues:

How ‘platooning’ and data walls are changing elementary school is from The Washington Post. I’m adding it to The Best Resources Showing Why We Need To Be “Data-Informed” & Not “Data-Driven.”

I’ve previously posted about a series of excellent posts Marc Tucker has been writing at Education Week (see Several Excellent New Posts & Articles On Assessment). Well, he’s just written another one: Accountability: What the Top Performers Do. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments.

Hundreds of teachers at Fresno Unified meeting protest CORE waiver is from The Fresno Bee. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On The NCLB Waiver Given To Eight California School Districts (Including Ours).

Rick & Maddie on Sec. Duncan’s Earnest Call for Teacher ‘Leadership’ is from Rick Hess at Education Week. I think he’s right-on about Arne Duncan’s recent call for “teacher leadership.” I’m sorry, I think it’s too little, too late. Duncan’s actions have left him with little credibility among many, if not most, educators. I’d be happy to be wrong — check in with me a year from now to see what’s he’s actually done.

Check out Mary Tedrow’s blog post on the same topic.

A Primer for Engaging Teach For America Supporters is from Cloaking Inequity. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles Raising Concerns About Teach For America.

Finnish Education Chief: ‘We Created a School System Based on Equality’ is from The Atlantic. I’m adding it to The Best Resources To Learn About Finland’s Education System.

Comparing Oak Trees’ “Apples to Apples,” by Stanford’s Edward Haertel is from VAMBoozled. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The “Value-Added” Approach Towards Teacher Evaluation.

De Blasio Pushes a 9-Year Contract for Teachers is from The New York Times, and is pretty interesting.

Anyone involved with schools in California has to read the new Ed Source report, Reforming Testing and Accountability: Essential Principles for Student Success in California. There will be a lot changes in how the state will be dealing with us over the next few years, and this report gives a good overview, if not the best that I’ve seen. My only complaint is that it really glosses over problems with the CORE waiver given to eight school districts (see the article about Fresno earlier this post). And I do have to cringe a bit when they use Cambridge Education as an example of a school quality “team” to visit and help schools facing challenges (anyone who has had them visit their school knows how awful and useless they really are). But, of course, no report is perfect….

Ed Source also published a piece about the upcoming SMARTER Balanced field test we’ll be having in California next month. May God help us all…

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March 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Will It Ever Be Possible For A Teacher To Trust Bill Gates?

I posted Gates Foundation Makes Its Move In California — And It Looks Like Somebody Is Giving Them Good Advice a couple of months ago, and I still believe what I wrote.

However, I’ve just got to say that every time Bill Gates speaks in public, he makes me question whether I should….

Rolling Stone just published an interview with him.

Here’s an excerpt:

Id-say-treatment-of

Come on, Bill. Perhaps you should read The Best Articles Pointing Out That Our Schools Are Not Failing.

Do many of our schools face lots of challenges? Yes. But we’re doing a pretty good job and, as all research points out, many of our challenges relate to issues outside the schoolhouse walls. That doesn’t mean we can’t do better, but it seems to me a slap in the face to teachers when you make a blanket statement like that…

I thought it was interesting that his interview came on the heels of his appeal to teachers to help defend the Common Core Standards — where he says that there is no voice “more important or trusted” than teachers.

I hope, as his Foundation sort of been saying in their pivoting (which I wrote about in the first link at the top of this post), that this idea of no voice being more important or trusted than teachers will hold true in future Gates Foundation funding decisions — and not just when they want to get educators to support something the foundation has dreamed up on its own and had decided to push.

Ironically, The New York Times just published an article headlined Billionaires With Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science.

Here are some quotes from that piece — see if you see any similarities to what’s happening in schools:

“For better or worse,” said Steven A. Edwards, a policy analyst at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “the practice of science in the 21st century is becoming shaped less by national priorities or by peer-review groups and more by the particular preferences of individuals with huge amounts of money.”

….Yet that personal setting of priorities is precisely what troubles some in the science establishment. Many of the patrons, they say, are ignoring basic research…

Fundamentally at stake, the critics say, is the social contract that cultivates science for the common good…

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March 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

This Week’s “Round-Up” Of Good Posts & Articles On Education Policy

'Protest March Against Cuts In Education Budget' photo (c) 2008, William Murphy - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Here is a collection of recent useful posts and articles on educational policy issues:

Vergara Plaintiffs Shouldn’t Put Individual Teachers On Trial is by Paul Bruno. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On California Court Case Attacking Teacher’s Rights.


This took Teach For America 24 years to figure out?
is by Valerie Strauss. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles Raising Concerns About Teach For America.

How Does PISA Put the World at Risk (Part 1): Romanticizing Misery is by Yong Zhao. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On 2012 PISA Test Results.

An Even Sadder Tale of D.C. Common Core Testing is by John Thompson. I’m adding it to
The Best Resources For Learning About The “Next Generation” Of State Testing.

Essay-Grading Software Seen as Time-Saving Tool is from Education Week. I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Computer-Graded Essays.

This story about what’s happening in San Jose is worth reading about — it seems to me that they’re doing exciting stuff, but, though I don’t pretend to know the whole story, it’s very surprising to me the local union pushed forward on this right now (both stories are from Ed Source): San Jose Unified, teachers to ask State Board for waiver from tenure law and State Board punts, for now, on San Jose’s request for waiver from tenure law.

Teacherpreneurs Panel and How We Benefit Students is by Ariel Sacks. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On Being A Teacherpreneur.

A Great Divide: The Election Fight for California’s Schools is from Capital and Main.

Can Professional Environments in Schools Promote Teacher Development? Explaining Heterogeneity in Returns to Teaching Experience is a new Harvard report showing how important working conditions are to teacher effectiveness. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles About The Importance Of Teacher (& Student) Working Conditions.

Are Working Conditions Related To Teacher Effectiveness? is another recent study. I’m adding it to the same list.

In standoff with California over testing, U.S. Education Department blinks is from The Washington Post.

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March 8, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Reducing Attrition In Urban Schools ‘By Listening To Our Teachers’

Reducing Attrition In Urban Schools ‘By Listening To Our Teachers’ is the last post in my Education Week Teacher three-part series on teacher attrition in high-poverty schools.

Today, Liam Goldrick and David Orphal are contributing responses, and I’m featuring many comments from readers, too. I also throw my “two cents” into the discussion.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

Improving-school

Teachers-are-not-trained

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March 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Several Excellent New Posts & Articles On Assessment

Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen several exceptional posts and articles on teacher and student assessment, and thought I’d bring them all together in one post.

I’ll be sharing to which “Best” list I’ll be adding each one, but you can also find all my lists on assessment at A Collection Of “The Best” Lists On Assessment.

I’ve got to start off with a series of exceptional posts on assessment that Marc Tucker has been writing over at Education Week. I’m adding them to The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments:

The Failure of Test-Based Accountability

Accountability and Motivation

I’m eagerly awaiting his next post, where he says he “will describe accountability systems for education consistent with the ideas of McGregor, Drucker and Pink—systems embraced by the countries with the best education records in the world.”

Here are excerpts from his first two posts:

If-we-want-broad

Policymakers-have-placed

Testing To, and Beyond, The Common Core is by Linda Darling-Hammond is another important new article on assessment. Though I’m not thrilled with her apparent position that test results from next generation of state tests should be included in teacher evaluation (see The Problem With Including Standardized Test Results As Part Of “Multiple Measures” For Teacher Evaluation), it’s an important article to read, nevertheless.

I’m also adding that piece to The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments.

Performance Assessment Re-Emerging in Schools appeared in Education Week. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About Performance Assessment.

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March 7, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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This Week’s “Round-Up” Of Good Posts & Articles On Education Policy

March 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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My Slide Presentation For Education Writers Association: “Connecting Educators & Education Journalists”

This morning, I joined three other educators, including Jose Vilson, for an online panel discussion sponsored by the Education Writers Association on Talking to Teachers: New Voices, New Views. Participation in the Webinar was limited to journalists.

My short presentation focused on suggesting ways journalists could connect with teachers, and have embedded by PowerPoint below. I have to get back to school now, so don’t have time to share much of my narrative, but thought readers might find the slide interesting….

EWAPanelpresentation

More PowerPoint presentations from mr
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March 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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Khan Academy To Do SAT Prep Not Just For Math, But For Reading & Writing, Too

'Khan Academy in Space' photo (c) 2013, John Spencer - EdRethink - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’ve previously shared info on the SAT changes that were announced yesterday (see “The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul”).

I had seen that one of the parts of the announcement was that the Khan Academy was going to work with the College Board to develop free online test prep materials, and assumed it was only going to be for math.

However, I know see in a very good Ed Week story on the program that it’s also going to include prep for the reading and writing part of the test.

I’ve shared a lot about the Khan Academy (see The Best Posts About The Khan Academy). I’m certainly no expert on math, but one thing I can say with certainty is that they’ve had some just awful attempts at branching out to other subjects (see This Khan Academy History Video Is Just Awful).

Here’s an excerpt from the Ed Week article that shows, at least when it comes to this subject, David Colemen from the College Board is a master of the understatement:

During a media briefing with reporters, Sal Khan and Coleman acknowledged that providing online preparation materials for math – where “productive practice” of discrete skills can lead to rapid learning gains – will be easier than for reading or writing.

“This will take some work,” Coleman said.

I will work at maintaining an open mind about what they might develop but, I’ve got to admit, I’m skeptical….

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March 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

“The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul”

The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul is a very interesting piece in this week’s New York Times Magazine.

Here’s an excerpt:

Still, Coleman concedes that the redesigned SAT won’t quiet everyone’s complaints, and he doesn’t expect there to be a universal celebration of what they’ve done. You can imagine there will be substantial questions, for instance, about whether any standardized test can be fair across all groups, and whether the College Board is not ultimately creating a new test that somehow, some way, will be gamed as much as the old one.

Coleman’s response to those concerns is to say that the new, more transparent test will be tied to what’s being taught in high school and will be evidence-based. But his previous work on the Common Core has raised some educators’ concerns. “Dave Coleman is not an educator by training,” says Lucy Calkins, the founding director of the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University’s Teachers College and an author of “Pathways to the Common Core.” Calkins has been a strong defender of the Common Core but thinks Coleman has been too insistent on his own particular method for implementing its standards. She cites a video that Coleman helped create of a “model lesson” for teaching the Gettysburg Address, where he would have students spending several classes “parsing the meaning of each word in each paragraph,” she said. She doesn’t feel there’s evidence that this method works.

With a redesigned SAT, Calkins thinks that too much of the nation’s education curriculum and assessment may rest in one person’s hands. “The issue is: Are we in a place to let Dave Coleman control the entire K-to-12 curriculum?”

The-issue-is-Are-we-in-a

Here are some other particularly useful articles on the SAT redesign:

The College Board is giving away test prep for free. Why that won’t change much.
is from The Washington Post.

SAT to drop essay requirement and return to top score of 1600 in redesign of admission test is also from The Washington Post.

College Board Outlines SAT Redesign It Says Will Be More ‘Focused and Useful’ is from Ed Week.

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March 4, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Problem With Including Standardized Test Results As Part Of “Multiple Measures” For Teacher Evaluation

'Wagging tail' photo (c) 2008, Quinn Dombrowski - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

There’s a lot of discussion, and actual implementation of, standardized test results as part of “multiple measures”  for teacher — and for principal — evaluation.

Among other points, proponents suggest that no one is suggesting that they count as one-hundred percent, only a portion — usually somewhere between twenty and fifty percent.

That sounds very reasonable, doesn’t it?

Except that it isn’t….

Once you include test scores, no matter what percent you include, many teachers will tell you that it quickly becomes the “tail that wags the dog”  — it always stays in the back (or front) of your mind.  And, once it becomes part of an administrator’s evaluation (as some districts might or might not do as a “back-door” strategy when they can’t get an agreement to use it with teachers), as one administrator told me, it immediately tends to distort the principal/teacher relationship — teachers can become immediately suspicious of advice and counsel from their principal because they’ll be wondering if the advice is being given to help the teacher genuinely grow in their craft or if it is being offered to increase test scores.

So, then, what should multiple measures include, if not test scores?

There is no shortage of those examples, and you can find them at The Best Articles Describing Alternatives To High-Stakes Testing.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning About Effective Student & Teacher Assessments.

Once-you-include-test

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March 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

This Week’s “Round-Up” Of Good Posts & Articles On Education Policy

'may 2011 10107' photo (c) 2011, Paul  Bailey - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Here are some recent useful posts and articles on education policy issues:

Class size matters a lot, research shows is from The Washington Post. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About How Class Size Does Matter.

Why most professional development for teachers is useless is an excellent piece by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post. It’s a follow-up to my previous post, Video: Though It Seems Like A Parody, It’s A Real Professional Development Event. Her follow-up piece is so good that I suspect it might end up on my year-end “Best” lists of education policy posts.

Marketing Technologies in U.S. Public Schools is by Larry Cuban.

So You Want to Be a Teacherpreneur? is from Education Week Teacher. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On Being A Teacherpreneur.

The False Markets of Market Based Reforms is by Bruce Baker. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles Analyzing Charter Schools.

Chicago charter schools expel many more kids than district schools — new data is from The Washington Post. I’m adding it to the same list.

The Tragedy behind Noble Street Charters – a Skimmed Lottery is from the Classroom Sooth. I’m adding it to the same list.

Why preschool critics are wrong appeared in The Washington Post. I’ve got to create a pre-K “Best” list.

‘No Child’ waiver creates rift among Fresno education leaders is from The Fresno Bee. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On The NCLB Waiver Given To Eight California School Districts (Including Ours).

California: A K-12 Education Outlier is from Education Week.

Teachers at second school to refuse to give ISATs, CTU says
is about an effort that appears to be gaining steam in Chicago. You might also be interested in A Beginning List Of The Best Resources On The Seattle Standardized Test Boycott.

David Welch: The Man Behind Vergara v. California is from Capital and Main. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On California Court Case Attacking Teacher’s Rights.

Analysis: Legal positions in Vergara trial a universe apart is from LA School Report. I’m adding it to the same list.

Here are two important posts about what’s happening in Newark, and Teach For America’s role in it:

What’s TFA’s Role In Mass Dismissals of Teachers? is by John Thompson.

TFA in Newark: “Act as if the facts matter” is from The Commonal.

I’m adding them both to The Best Posts & Articles Raising Concerns About Teach For America.

What Richard Rothstein Told NAGB About the History of NAEP is from Diane Ravitch. I’m adding it to The Best Posts Interpreting This Year’s NAEP Scores.

The 12 Things You Should Never, Ever Say To Teachers is from Upworthy.

11 Annoying Things People Say About Teaching is from BuzzFeed.

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March 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Posts & Articles On The Florida Teacher Evaluation Fiasco

'Map of Florida' photo (c) 2011, Boston Public Library - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The state of Florida has just released the Value-Added Assessment scores of teachers to newspapers.

It’s a fiasco.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning About The “Value-Added” Approach Towards Teacher Evaluation.

Here are some posts on what’s going on — feel free to suggest others in the comments section:

The most meaningless teacher evaluation exercise ever? is a Washington Post piece on the public release of insane teacher evaluations to local newspapers in Florida.

Confused by Florida’s teacher scoring? So are top teachers
is from The Tampa Bay Times.

Gates Foundation opposes release of teachers’ VAM scores in Florida is good, but as this tweet says:

I’m One of the Worst Teachers in My State is a great post about the Florida fiasco.

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February 27, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
22 Comments

Video: Though It Seems Like A Parody, It’s A Real Professional Development Event

Karen Lewis, head of the Chicago Teachers Union, sent this out tonight:

 

Here is the video’s description:

This presenter was one of several consultants flown in from California and the United Kingdom for the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of Strategic School Support Services’ special network. This is a professional development for teachers of Saturday ISAT preparation classes.

Yes, you can make a lot of things look bad taken out of context, but I don’t think a case can be made that this is appropriate for any professional development, or classroom, context….

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February 22, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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This Week’s Round-Up Of Useful Posts On Education Policy

February 21, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

This Looks Interesting, Though I Have Some Concerns: Angela Duckworth Creates “Grit” Organization

grit2

Thanks to Alexander Russo, I just learned about an interview with “grit” researcher Angela Duckworth at Scholastic.

The interview is fine, though most of it won’t be new to people familiar with her work or the info at The Best Resources For Learning About The Importance Of “Grit.”….

Except, however, for the news that she’s begun her own non-profit organization called Character Lab.

It sounds like they are doing some potentially very useful research, which they say they will report on over the summer.

However, the group also offers a free “character report card” for download, which is very, very concerning to me (see my Washington Post piece, Why schools should not grade character traits). In addition, some of the members of the group’s board make me nervous because of their “school reform” background.

As I’ve previously written, many “school reformers” have a tendency to manipulate potentially good ideas and crush the life out of them. And there seems to be a concerted effort by some of them to do just that with Social Emotional Learning (see Let Them Eat Character).

My impression in the past has been that Professor Duckworth has not had those kinds of views.

I hope that still remains the case….

In case you’re interested, here’s a video from Character Lab:

Introducing Character Lab from Character Lab on Vimeo.

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February 17, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
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This Week’s Round-Up Of Useful Posts On Education Policy

February 16, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Let Them Eat Character

We-need-to-remember-that

I am a big supporter of educators helping students develop many of the qualities highlighted in the concept of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) — perseverance (or “grit”); self-control; personal responsibility, etc.   I apply it regularly in my classroom, write in my blog about practical ideas on implementing SEL lessons in schools, and have even authored two books on the topic (and will have a third one published next year).

At the same time, I am concerned that many proponents of Social Emotional Learning might not be aware of the increasing danger to SEL of being “co-opted” by well-heeled and well-known groups and individuals, ranging from “school reformers” to columnists like The New York Times’ David Brooks,  and converted into a “Let Them Eat Character” political strategy.   I fear those “Blame The Victim” efforts may  be used to distract from the importance of supplying needed financial resources to schools, providing  increased support to families by dealing with growing income and wealth inequality, and developing a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy.

Already, “school reformers” in Los Angeles are using SEL terms (they even call their report, True Grit) to justify pushing performance pay for teachers and rewards for students, as well as advocating for an increased emphasis on being data-driven (instead of being data-informed) through the use of  ”dynamic data.”   KIPP schools have begun the destructive strategy of grading character traits.  And, in a column last month, David Brooks proclaimed that Social Emotional Learning and training “average” parents to become better ones  will take care of everything.

Recent research reveals the toll that poverty takes on one’s ability to execute SEL skills.  People aren’t poor because they don’t have self-control or grit — poverty itself helps create a lack of those qualities.  The cognitive “bandwidth” required to deal with financial problems,  stress  and constant “trade-offs” (a healthy food for the family tonight or new school clothes) makes it more difficult to maintain the mental reserve needed for those SEL skills.

None of these concerns, however, mean that we shouldn’t help our students develop these SEL skills in ways that are healthy for them, for their families, for us and for our schools.   For example, in addition to the many related lessons I teach now,  my colleagues and I are developing  lessons that would help students become aware of some of that research explaining why they might be experiencing some of their self-control and perseverance challenges.  All too often, students tell me that they want to make changes in how they behave, and don’t know why they do some of the unhelpful things they do.  Of course, some of that confusion can probably be attributed to common adolescent challenges.    But just-announced research findings for college students show that discussing these types of social and economic class issues resulted in dramatically increased academic achievement.   Even though that study did focus on college students, there’s no reason to believe an effort with younger students would not meet similar success.

What these concerns do mean, though, is that we should be vigilant about who is doing what and why they are doing it in the name of Social Emotional Learning.   In my teacher advice column at Education Week Teacher, I recently published a chart using Google’s Ngram Viewer.  It searched all indexed books to identify how often the phrase “teaching character” was used since 1840.  The two peak years that phrase was used most often were at the depths of the Great Depression and our more recent Great Recession.   It could go without saying that “teaching character” is a less monetarily expensive strategy to responding (or, to pretend to be responding) to economic crises than other potential solutions.

All this also reminds us, yet again, that, though we teachers can have an important impact on our students’ lives, as all the research shows, we can only impact between ten and thirty percent of the factors that influence their academic achievement.  In addition to everything we do in the classroom on SEL and non-SEL skills, parent engagement is another important strategy to pursue to potentially affect some of those other influencing factors (for those interested, the St. Paul Federation of Teachers  offers one exceptional model on how to do it).

We need to remember that Social Emotional Learning has an important place in teaching and in learning.

It’s also critical to remember that it has to be kept in its appropriate place.

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