June 2007

Prepare for high stakes test with test-making sites

by Alan Haskvitz

for additional free resources go to http://www.reacheveychild.com

Online tests are one of the best ways to prepare students for mandated state and federal exams.  These sites provide samples of older tests that can be used in class.  I have found these to be a powerful tool for preparing my students for high stakes tests because students’ confidence increases as they become used to the pressure and format.

The following sites offer a variety of tests by subject area.  It’s best to spend some time looking for those sites that cover your subject matter, regardless of grade level, as many states have different curriculum patterns.


Quiz-making sites
REC resources
State-released tests

Audi W12: A Lot of Money a Lot of Car

By The Car  Family


Besides a 12-cylinder engine Audi’s flagship is stuffed with features, but at a price over $120,000 that is what you would expect. What is a surprise is that this hunkered down purposeful appearing beauty just doesn’t handle or perform much better than its less powerful brother, the Audi 8L.  Of course the additional cost of the big brother does bring some significant upgrades when fully loaded.  You get what you pay for as there are massaging, heated and cooled 12-way power leather front seats, four different climate zones, remote start, DVD player with remote control for those in backseats, adaptive cruise control, satellite radio, a terrific audio system, a steering wheel that warms to the touch on cold days and a solar powered fan that cools the interior on hot days, and, yes, a small refrigerator in the rear arm rest area. The air suspension allows the driver to select ride comfort levels as well as height and there are also a rearview camera, parking sensors, and fabulous adaptive headlights that should be an industry standard.

To this mix add rear bucket seats, all wheel drive, and a 12-cylinder engine that produces 450 smooth horsepower. Unfortunately, that engine also gets tagged with a

$1700 gas guzzler tax as the 121-inch wheelbase all wheel drive sedan needs plenty of juice to get the DOCH 6.0 liter engine to push the Quattro power through the six speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.

All these features are difficult to ignore, but the reality was that even though this is the ultimate Audi sedan, the lesser equipped A8 L sells for tens of thousands less and is nearly as good.  It gets better fuel mileage, and is about as quick, and its exterior is extremely similar to its more luxury-laden big brother. Audi knows there is a limited market for this German cruiser and is not making many W12 units, but if you can afford one they are well worth a test drive. Overall the uber Audi is fashionable, fast, and understated. This is a unique car with few equals if you live where inclement weather and uniqueness are prized.


Mom’s view: I adored the 12 cylinder Bentley, but the Audi just didn’t leave me with the same feeling. No doubt it will appeal to those who like to blend in and still enjoy the opulence of the Audi’s interior and electronic features. I love to drive and the 12-cylinder engine didn’t give me the push in the back of other cars in this price segment. It certainly has a nice ride and you can’t fault the massive feel or handing of the big Audi. However, the gas mileage was nearly the same as the far faster Bentley at 17 mpg and the transmission wasn’t nearly as smooth under pressure. Personally, I would get the A8 and be quite happy, if a bit slower. If I desired more legroom for my rear passengers the A8L, which is over five feet longer than the standard A8, would be the answer. With the W12 you can order rear bucket seats, which is nice, but we couldn’t even take a friend to dinner in this abundance of aluminum and leather conveyance because it only holds four people with this seating option. Overall, a splendid looking sedan with a stunning interior and thoughtful features such as make-up mirrors with two settings and a superior sound system.

Dad’s view: This is an elegant vehicle that does not pretend to be sporty even with all wheel drive and a 450 horsepower engine. It is a grand touring vehicle with a 23-gallon tank and enough gadgets to keep you occupied on the longest of journeys. There are some shortcomings; nevertheless, such as brakes with little feel, a transmission that needs to be poked too hard to kick down, and a needlessly complicated control system. On the other hand the xenon headlights are fabulous and offer great vision to the front and side. The seats are heated and cooled and comfortable and adjustable and leather and they even give you a massage. I would not order the bucket seats in back as it limits the use of the Audi, but I did find the optional refrigerator in the rear armrest cool.

Audi calls this a W12 to describe the engine’s appearance, and it works as the 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine provides 450 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. Excellent numbers, but most of the V12 competition does better. Despite all these numbers the 4700 pound sedan feels underpowered until you are underway. Anyway you cut it the A8 L Audi is almost as good.  The  W12 is one understated ride that reveals in the treatment of its passengers and is eager to please.

Safety wise you can get front and rear side airbags, front knee airbags, and curtain side airbags, ABS, traction and antiskid control, a navigation system, an excellent rearview camera, front and rear obstacle detection, keyless entry/starting, and adaptive cruise control.

Audi has built a terrific vehicle, no doubt, but do you really need a V12? That was our only qualm about this extensively aluminum bodied luxury sedan. After all, even though you get 450 horsepower is it worth the extra cost and fuel over the V8 that comes in the standard A8? Well, since you get so much more with the V12 it is impossible to measure what that extra $50,000 buys outside of more power. Terrific rear seats, a stereo systems that is virtually unmatched, vibrating seats, a touch close rear hatch, and much more are difficult to justify and explain to those who own more pedestrian products. We constantly head, “I could buy a house for that.” However, those who can afford such a vehicle probably have a couple of houses anyway and an art collection to boot. They want the best and this Audi is prepared to answer their request.
Rating this Audi against the rest of the German super sedans places it second to the Mercedes and well ahead of the BMW V 12 when it comes to interior, comforts, and amenities.  The Mercedes is a hammer with the ability to crush distances. The BMW lives for the corners, but neither offer the hospitality of the Audi.

Working woman’s view: I found the transmission reluctant to downshift, even when using the manual shifter, and I also didn’t like the electronic doodads that control most everything. On the other hand, the interior is stunning and the ride road flattening. You press a button and the truck lid closes by itself, you click another button and a screen covers the rear window and tones down bright headlights and the sun’s rays.  The
 6,250-rpm redline takes a while to reach, but the power is consistent, if not overwhelming probably due to its significant weight. Getting to 60 mph in under six seconds shouldn’t be difficult, but your gas mileage is going to suffer significantly as I recorded some 12 mpg figures at times. The Audi’s 23.8-gallon tank is needed for long distance traveling. Figure 400 miles between fill-ups.

I was rather surprised that the A8 L W12 does not come fully loaded. Such special features as the adaptive cruise control and solar sunroof are options. You can add to that
$1500 for the refrigerator for $1,500 another $2,000 for the 20-inch rims and tires. Regardless, this is a stunning interior. Everywhere you look there is something to be proud to show-off and that is what this car is all about.

College going male’s view: The air suspension provides a soft, yet sporty feel and the wealthy people who can afford this sedan aren’t going to find much to complain about in terms of performance. I felt the brakes were too soft and needed too much pressure to yield a quick stop probably due to the long pedal travel or the weight (4800 pounds) of the vehicle.  It is not a quick vehicle, but the flow of propulsion is well above reproach. It is grand touring car, not a sports touring one despite the space frame style construction and use of vast quantities of aluminum. To get the maximum out of the large engine you need to keep the rpms in the 4000 range and that is best done with the shift paddles mounted in back of the steering wheel.

Inside, the rear view camera is remarkably clear and the comfortable ventilated seats even have a massage feature. However, it is not nearly as good as the one in the Bentley. The fact that this review is comparing the massage feature shows you the direction comforting drivers of luxury vehicles is heading. The Bang & Olufsen audio system sound system with 5-channel surround sound, subwoofer, and a center fill speaker is superb as well as fairly easy to operate. However, the navigation system isn’t as good as that on a Honda or Infiniti even though it has a neat retractable screen. Perhaps best of all are the headrest mounted monitors so that those in the backseats can enjoy their DVDs without having a screen dangling from the ceiling liner . This Audi is impressive, but not overwhelming even with the best night lighting and exceptional use of LEDs.

No doubt that the exterior of the Audi is going to draw interest. With that grill shell hanging conspicuously out in front and the way large SUV drivers park by feel there is no doubt that there is going to be money in replacement grills as long as they make Hummer H2s, Cadillac Escalades, and Lincoln Navigators.

I would have to say that this “who’s your daddy” Audi is an appealing vehicle for those that appreciate the joy of all wheel drive, the linear power of a 12 cylinder powerplant, and the fun of having enough electronic toys to keep the most attention deficit afflicted inhabitant amused.

Family conference: There is an abundance of fun in this Audi, but the admission to the amusements is high. It is well worth a drive if you can afford the entrance fee, but don’t expect it to be the fastest ride. For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

An Alternative Fuel Vehicle Primer

You are a good citizen caught in the maelstrom of high fuel prices, global warming concerns, and the desire to do the right thing. To help prod you into action when faced with the predicament of embracing an alternative fuel vehicle which promises lower transportation costs and fresher air versus ending up with a vehicle unfit for your needs you to turn, what else, a primer.

So in typical wiki format there are four basic types of alternative fuel vehicles. Those that run exclusively on batteries such as the ill-fated EV-1 from General Motors. Next are SUVs and sedans that run on a combination of gas engine and electric motors such as the hybrids from Ford, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan. Thirdly are flex-fuel vehicles that can run on ethanol or gasoline. The last category is cars with hydrogen burning powerplants.

A major subgroup of the electric only category are the neighborhood cars that are limited by law to 25 mph and have a range that seldom exceeds 50 miles like the Zenn, a cute two door with an optional sunroof no less. The battery powered Zap has one wheel in front and two in back and this configurations enables it to be registered as motorcycles and thus reach speeds up to 40 miles per hour with a 40-mile range. Very handy, according to Taryn Sokolow, the director of EnVironmental Motors in Glendale, one of the first dealerships that just sells electric transportation. (818-549-0000) The top seller at the dealership is the Zappy 3 Personal Transport, a fancy way to say three-wheeled scooter. Priced around $850 these Zappys are zippy with speeds over 10 mph and the ability to travel up hills. Call it a poor man’s Segway.

Two other subgroups of the electric only are the retro fit cars that have their gasoline innards removed and 
batteries and motors installed such as the eBox, a Scion xB converted
 by AC Propulsion (http://www.acpropulsion.com/ebox/)  and those vehicles exclusively built 
with electric power in mind.  This latter category has two spectacular stars at the moment
 is the $98,000 Tesla, a carbon fiber sports car, and the “get er done” Phoenix five passenger pick-up truck.
Both are exceptional engineering accomplishments with the Tesla being built for speed
and handling and the Phoenix being created for fleet owners with a price half of the Tesla. 
The Phoenix has passed crash safety tests and is quite versatile with a 54-inch bed, sturdy ride, and 100-mile range
 plus a very fast recharge rate. (909-987-0815) Tesla’s builders promise a sedan with more range
 and less speed than the sports car that can ready 60 mph in about four seconds
 with several hundred already on order and a dealership planned for Santa Monica. (650-413-6270) 

The flex fuel or ethanol cars are available from manufactures such as General Motors and Chrysler, but although there are 10,000 gas stations in California there are only about five that have ethanol at this time.


Hybrids use a small gas engine to charge a core of batteries. The engines also run when the car needs additional power such as speeds above 30 mph. They come in many forms, but the small SUV such as the Ford Escape and the compact sedan are the main sellers. Hybrids don’t need to be plugged in and can provide over 40 mpg plus consumption figures.

Hydrogen powered cars are just coming to the market with Honda leading the way. BMW and GMC have viable vehicles being tested, but the lack of hydrogen refueling stations and a limited range take away from the fact they don’t pollute and have a range of over 100 miles. There aren’t many refueling stations, but home units are available and Chevrolet is currently doing a promotion to put their hydrogen-powered vehicles into regular households. For a list of refueling stations go to http://www.cafcp.org/fuel-vehl_map.html

Honda also has a proven Civic that runs on natural gas (CNG). It has a range of 200 miles and is high occupancy lane certified. You can even order a home refueling station that enables you to top off your car every night while it is parked in your garage. A review of this Civic is at http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/honda-civic-gx-natural-gas-powered-sedan/

The future looks even more promising with such sporty cars as the Volt from Chevrolet, which is also offering Los Angeles area residents the opportunity to drive their fuel cell vehicle by applying online. http://www.chevrolet.com/fuelcell/checkzipcode/

With the average commute for Americans being under 30 minutes nearly every type of alternative fuel vehicle could be used to get to work with quiet efficiency as well as scoot to the beach or view the sunset from the bluffs through the clean air you helped to conserve. Cool stuff and you can take pride in knowing that you were one of the early adaptors who made alternative fuel vehicles mainstream.

Review of hybrid vehicles


Tax incentives


List of electric vehicle manufactures


Listing of all manufacture websites


Help for student teachers, mentors and cooperating teachers

by Alan Haskvitz

I clearly remember my less-than-ideal experiences as a student teacher at Cal Poly Pomona. One supervising teacher left me alone from the start to go play basketball. The other was excellent and provided needed feedback.

Unfortunately, Cal Poly provided a woman who had not been in the classroom for years as my observer. She complained when I called the students “kids” and when my dress shirt was not fully buttoned to the top. She missed that one lesson featured a Japanese exchange student explaining the role of the emperor and that students were using primary documents. She missed that the students were so into the debate they didn’t want to leave the room when the bell rang. She also missed that their reflection essays showed a clear change in their point of view.

For my final lesson plan demonstration before fellow student teachers, I painted my face with a burnt cork and wore a turtleneck sweater. I came as an African American student and gave my fellow white student teachers a test on slang words. I played loud music, told them if they failed they couldn’t go to college, and collected their work with disdain.

The supervising teacher didn’t get it and gave me a failing grade. I had to go to the dean and face representatives from every discipline to be allowed to stay in the program. As luck would have it, 25 years later Cal Poly’s teacher preparation department asked me to be its outstanding alumnus at the school’s anniversary celebration. As such, I have deep feelings about all student teachers.

Consequently, I have put together some resources to help in this most difficult time. Following are tools to help in the transition from student to student teacher to educator.

I have placed the best resources for new teachers here:


Independence Day Lessons

By National Motivational Speaker Alan Haskvitz


Patriot lesssons and links


Revolutionary War and related links


Links to Founding Fathers


President Lessons and Links


Myth and Truth about Independence Day



An elementary lesson

More on America than Independence Day, but has some good team ideas.


Nice collection of ideas, but lots of ads


Liberty Bell lessons


Declaration of Independence and the student

An integrated lesson that would appeal to capble students


Clip Art


Primary Crafts and coloring pages


Independence Day

Drafting of the Declaration of Independence and  primary documents from the Constitutional Convention, and why July 4 has been celebrated since 1776


National Mall and Memorial Parks

The Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, Ford’s Theatre, the  Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and other links from the National Park Service.


Large link site


Primary document links and more



United States Government Site

Your taxes in action.



Historical Dcouments


Nice listing of historic documents

For very advanced students.


Fireworks safety links








Helping Your Slow Learning Child
By National Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz
Perhaps the greatest challenge to a parent or adult is a child who is a slow learner. These children do not fall into the category of special education, do well outside the classroom, and show no evidence of having a medical problem. They simply do not do well in school or a particular subject. In the days before formal schooling these students would carry on productive lives working and doing tasks that did not require extensive reading, writing, or math operations. However, today the emphasis is less on occupational learning and more on academic preparation. Thus there is a growing need for help to remediate these children to provide them the best possible opportunities in a changing world.

Having successfully taught for nearly 30 years in several states and countries two commonalities emerge when dealing with slow learners. The first is that they need extra time to complete tasks. This means that the parents must be willing to augment what happens at school regardless of how fruitless it might appear at times. Secondly, the child must be offered incentives that are appropriate. Depending on the child the best incentives are those where the family works together on a project such as building a model or attending a concert or game. The incentives should require delayed gratification so that the child learns patience and the importance of waiting to be rewarded.

The next area is proper nutrition. A child needs to have a breakfast. Period. Every study done points out that a quality breakfast and proper sleep are the two best ways to improve student performance. http://www.nassp.org/advocacy/views/healthy_better.cfm

With those two factors in mind, the next step for a teacher or parent is to search for lessons and other resources that make it easier to differentiate the curriculum and make learning more vital and relevant. To this end the special education sites on the Internet have some great ideas. It must be noted that this column is not dealing with those students that qualify for special education classes. However, the concepts that teachers use when dealing with these students are ideal for helping a slow learner once the student’s weaknesses have been diagnosed. In any one of my classes I have about ten percent who are slow learners so having a slow learning child is not unusual.


Here are some general characteristics of slow learners. Students may display some or all of these depending on their age and degree of problems acquiring knowledge at school. First, they are frequently immature in their relations with others and do poorly in school. Secondly, they cannot do complex problems and work very slowly. They lose track of time and cannot transfer what they have learned from one task to another well. They do not easily master skills that are academic in nature such as the times tables or spelling rules. Perhaps the most frustrating trait is their inability to have long-term goals. They live in the present and so have significant problems with time management probably due to a short attention span and poor concentration skills capabilities.
It should be pointed out that just because a child is not doing well in one class does not make that student a slow learner. Very few children excel in all subject areas unless there is great deal of grade inflation at that school. That is why it is essential that standardized tests scores be examined in depth by the parent or teacher to look for trends. Also there is a difference between a slow learner and a reluctant learner. A slow learner initially wants to learn, but just has a problem with the process. A reluctant learner is not motivated and can also be passive aggressive creating even more of a problem for teachers and parents through a ploy that involves non-cooperation. There is seldom anything wrong with the learning ability of reluctant learners.
To help slow learners here are some proven ideas for parents
Have a quiet place to work where the child can be easily observed and motivated.
Keep the homework sessions short
Provide activity times before and during the homework
Add a variety of tasks to the learning even if it is not assigned such as painting a picture of a reading assignment.
Allow for success
Ask questions of the child while they are working about the assignment
Go over the homework before they go to bed and before they go to school
Teach them how to use a calendar to keep track of assignments
Read to the child
Use my “Three Transfer” form of learning in which the student must take information and do three things with it besides reading. For example, read it, explain it to someone else, draw a picture of it, and take notes on it.
Be patient but consistent.
Do not reward unfinished tasks

Challenge the child
Have the child do the assignments that are the most difficult first and leave the easier ones to later. Call it the dessert principle.
Don’t be overprotective. Students who have parents that frequently intercede in their child’s education are teaching that student that the parent does not respect their abilitites. If you do call a teacher make sure you are seeking a positive outcome. Remember that most teachers have dealt with numerous slow learners and have a vast amount of experience. However, sharing your child’s strengths and weaknesses could make the school year more beneficial for all concerned.
Contact the teacher if there is a concern. Calling an administrator solves nothing as the teacher is the sole legal judge of academic success.
Take you child to exciting places where they can see where academic success
is important. A trip to a local university or community college, a walking tour
of city hall, a visit to the fire station or a behind the scenes tour of a zoo are
highly motivating.
Examples of interventions for slow learners
Environment: Reduce distractions, change seating to promote attentiveness, have a peer student teacher, and allow more breaks.
Assignments: Shorter and with more variation, repeat work in various forms, have a contract, give more hands on work, have assignments copied by student, have students use three transfer method where they have to show the work three different ways.
Assessment: Shorter tests, oral testing, redoing tests, short feedback times, don’t make students compete
What to avoid: Cooperative learning that isolates the student and places him or her in a no win situation. Using a standardized test. Ignoring the problem.
What to encourage: Grouping with a patient partner. Learning about the child’s interests. Placing the student in charge. Mapping, graphic organizers, and hands-on work. Using Bloom’s taxonomy of tasks to make the assignments more appropriate.
Resources for slow learners
Slow learners greatly benefit from yoga
It is always important for students to get proper nutrition and exercise. This article may be of interest in that Yoga calms the mind and body.

Autism-PDD Resources
This site offers information on treatment and, even the law, with a parent guide. Quite complete.

Kentucky Department of Education’s Behavior Site
Intervention ideas, jobs, and a forum. When a slow learner is frustrated they can become behavior problems. Here are some resources that provide suggestions to cope with this problem.

LD OnLine: Learning
Disabilities Information and Resources


National Center for Learning Disabilities
The Council for Exceptional Children
This large database has most everything from a job bank to resources. Start here.
Disability Accommodations
Strategies for varied disabilities, including speech, hearing, behavior, ADD and learning

KidSource: Disabilities
A large link site with ratings of those that are the most helpful.

Resources for Early Childhood Special Education

Very ValuableSpecial Education Resources on the Internet

Misunderstood Kids Outside the Box
Special education articles, resources,
news, and other features.

Email discussion groups
A little difficult to follow

Special Needs Opportunity Windows
SNOW is made specifically for special education teachers, this site
offers discussion, bulletin boards, a listserv, events and resources.

The law and special education

Technology Resources and Special Education

Special Education Award
There are several. Here are just a couple/

Alan Haskvitz has been selected as one of the best teachers in the United States by six different educational organizations. He has earned over 30 awards for his innovative teaching and has been featured on national radio and television numerous times as well as featured in books on improving education. His students have done extremely well winning major competitions in nearly every curriculum area. Haskvitz has taught at every grade level and every core subject in his nearly 45 years as an educator.