Nip the Problem

Why is it so important to nip the problems in your child’s academic career?  Often students are performing below grade level because they never learned a skill or forgot a skill.

It’s important to remember that just because a student knew something last year does not mean he will know the material this year.  Retention is a key aspect of education that no one likes to address.

This is also true for adults.  For example, if an adult obtains a masters degree, will the information be retained if not used and reviewed?

Universities don’t seem to address this issue, since selling more education and filling the seats is a key objective.  American’s need to consider the reality of use it or loose it!



The Ideal Classroom for American Kids

Is it any wonder why kids can’t seem to learn in the classroom? I’m referring to middle class and disadvantaged areas. Not the elite. Since everyone knows the upper middle class and wealthy are learning (perhaps the only ones in a traditional classroom setting in our country).

I’m curious if the average adult would be able to learn in the “typical classroom setting” today. Very noisy, argumentative, lots of negative energy, lots of screaming and yelling in the building, and typically students feel as if they are over punished or under punished. And lot’s of disruption from 25-30% of the students in the room. This is the real problem…. Kids who are behind, making it hard for kids to learn.


Let’s talk about change- imagine if we could snap our fingers and change things without the long and grueling process of bureaucracy and committee (too often resulting in the lowest denominator). So what would work?

Here’s what I’m thinking the model should be

  • Education dollars go directly into the classroom.
  • Where are the learning activities? The classroom should be loaded with a variety of interesting non-fiction learning activities.  Why are we not utilizing the fantastic learning software that is available?
  •  Staff for Teachers-  to assist the students and teacher.
  • Diagnostic – Skill based assessments are administered at the beginning, middle and end of the school year. These skill based assessments determine what the student knows and does not know. 

If a student can’t recall it, they never learned it.

Students would ideally work a  4 hour circuit every morning that includes reading, writing and math activities that are in a group setting with the aid or the teacher.  Each student works on his own customized curriculum.  Work is independent based with the teacher and aids giving one on one instruction before practicing the skill.   Curriculum is customized, based on the student’s progress, skill base, and learning style.  Student scores determine mastery of skills and future curriculum. Teacher is designing curriculum, and working with students who are struggling, and all students on an occasional basis to check skill levels and progress. Teacher is managing this classroom and the instruction of all teacher aids/assistants.

Camera’s in the Classroom- If others  are making it impossible for the teacher to teach, we need accountability.

Oh yes, the teacher will be on camera as well. I’m assuming she might work harder as a result, and watch her tone and words closely when speaking to the kids.

If you can’t monitor it you can’t manage it! This simple truth makes management of the classroom so much easier and more effective.

Changing the traditional classroom setting is step one, in reforming education in this country.

The Importance of Probiotics For Our Kids and – Microbiologists are learning

The human body contains and estimated 100 trillion bacterial cells from at least 500 species , not including viruses and fungi.  These bacteria are known as friendly bacteria or probiotics that are vital for many important biological functions.  For example digestion, combating harmful bacteria, fungal and yeast infections, producing hormones to store excess nutrients and a healthy immune system are reliant on friendly bacteria.

There are estimated to be over 170 common diseases treated or alleviated with probiotics.  For example, irritable bowel syndrome, atopic dermatitis, diarrhea, allergic rhinitis and the common cold.  Probiotics also influence mood itself (probably because nutrition is closely related to mood and your body’s ability to absorb the nutrition and process it effectively).

According to the January 17, 2012 edition of the The Wall Street Journal, current research shows the gut affects bodily functions beyond digestion and immune function.  Studies have shown intriguing links between the guts health and bone formation, learning and memory and even conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.  Recent studies show that imbalances in intestinal bacteria can prompt depression and anxiety.  The gut is important not only to digestion but to the entire body.  This is how nutrition is absorbed.  Nutrition is what makes us happy and healthy and helps feed our brain so we think good and feel great.


As Candace Pert, an internationally recognized pharmacologist explains in her book Molecules of Emotion, more than 90 percent of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone is found in the digestive tract.  Unfortunately,  fast food and fatty fried carbohydrates result in an imbalance of pathogenic bacteria versus beneficial bacteria in your gut.  So take  probiotic’s and give one a day to all the kids!

Football and Academics?

Let’s talk about Football!  I’m curious if anyone is aware of what is going on in high schools- across the country, when it comes to athletic sports, kids are spending 3-4 hours before and after school practicing, and are unable to dedicate any real effort to academics.  People do not talk about this, so I want to make you aware of these important issues.

Everyone knows that sometimes great athletes do not have very good grades- right?  But how does this evolve and snowball into a high school student, who is on the football team, with poor reading comprehension that equates to 4th grade level or lower?  How is it possible that a student is allowed and expected to practice early morning and evening, equating to a 13-14 hour day- leaving the poor kid exhausted, unable to do homework?  How does this relate to academics?

Why are students allowed to participate in sports if they have low assessment and test scores, and poor grades?  Apparently schools have shown their true colors!  Academics is not the objective, but rather appearance is everything!  Unfortunately this is not a Win-Win situation.  College football is nice if you obtain a scholarship- but what will this scholarship accomplish in the long run for most of these kids who begin college seriously below grade level?  What is going on??

Here’s the scoop- these kids need to survive.  Football survival skills don’t make the grade.  How about some basic rules and understanding for the elementary and high school arena- If assessment scores are low – NO FOOTBALL FOR YOU!

Grades are not a good indicator.  This is because an “A” in Chicago is a completely different “A” when compared to Glenco or Highland Park.  Grades have no meaning in most schools today.  That’s because the system is a complete disaster!!  Who knows what the teacher was doing in the classroom, and how does it relate to core foundational skills?

At the end of the day ask yourself these questions-

Can my child write effectively- this is important because people judge us by the way we write.

Can my child speak the Kings language properly- this is important because people judge us by the way we speak.

Did you Learn Anything Today Sweetheart? – A Straight Forward Approach

Welcome to A Plus Master Tutoring Center. Thank you for reading. It’s a pleasure to have you on our site. Today we will discuss the importance of a straight forward approach. Frequently students will be struggling with homework, or a class lesson that is clearly not skill based. Many of the textbooks used in the classroom today are troublesome. Often the directions are confusing, or difficult to understand. This is extremely troublesome!

 Classroom lessons are typically structured and designed by the classroom teacher. Does this guarantee a meaningful, core skill lesson or could this be the crux of the problem? Today the classroom problems are too long to list. This ineffective classroom model works well in upper middle class and wealthy areas, but has proven to be completely broken at the middle class and disadvantaged levels?

Let’s discuss the classroom lesson, for the majority of our sweetheart American kids. This lesson is selected and designed by the classroom teacher. The lesson may or may not be worthy of class time. The students may or may not understand how this lesson relates to a core skill or learning goal. Often students are not even told what skill they are trying to improve or what the skill is called.

I’m perplexed- students come to my Center for help in the area of math. I will ask them, “what are you working on in school”- they reply, “I don’t know.”

Since the name of the skill helps one remember and understand what they are learning, knowing what the skill is called is valuable and important information. Why are the math books and homework so abstract? Our kids do not know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide fractions. Why can’t they learn these basic skills? Why do they walk away without learning anything? Why don’t we have math books and homework that teach in a straight forward direct way? Why are our children not shown properly– and given pages of practice so they can internalize the skill.

Elementary math is not very difficult. If shown properly, and allowed to practice I ‘m thinking our kids can be math wizards.

Denise J. Mastro, Director

Healthy eating makes healthy children

Why Is Blood Flow To The Brain So Important?

What is going on in our Culture today? According to statistics 60% of all Americans are over-
weight, and walk less than 1.5 miles per day. An astounding 85% of all prescription drugs are
taken in the U.S. How does this affect our ability to live properly?

Let’s talk about depression. Many people in the U.S. suffer from depression. Children
and adults have been analyzed, and prescribed many different types of anti-depressants and
medications that are thought to help us thru life’s bumpy and miserable lows. What’s the truth
about depression? Why are so many American kids put on so much medication that they can
barely think when they go to school, or come to my Center?

I’m no expert and I certainly do not have a medical degree, but I can tell you that there are
two kinds of depression.

The first kind of depression is natural. Sadness is natural when something bad happens. In fact,
if you are finding yourself feeling good, when bad things happen- then I could argue something
is terribly wrong with you. This type of depression may also occur if you are not taking proper
care of your body. For example, if are drinking mass quantities of sugar and your body is obese
as a result, do you honestly think you will feel good or like what you see in the mirror. Will
we feel good if we don’t move and consume foods that are essentially toxic to your body? Of
course not. Medication will not change this essential truth- you must care for your body and
mind to feel alive and well.

The second type of depression is unnatural. It may come as a consequence of horrific
experiences, or it may just follow you around for no apparent reason. You have lots to be
grateful for, and yet, you are always feeling sad. This type of depression is the only type that
should be treated with medication (as a last resort). You are not depressed because your body
has been neglected or abused by toxic sugar, lack of movement etc.

Many of our children have horrific nutrition. Kids are filled up with juice that is loaded with
corn-syrup. They are consuming food that has very little nutritional value. These calories may
provide energy, but have very little value in terms of health. As our children grow we have seen
type II Diabetes surge like an epidemic. Attention Deficit Disorder has become common and the
madness continues to grow, as Autism has reached an all-time high.

Think before you feed your children unhealthy food. Consider a lifestyle change. Imagine
your family eating five servings of fruits, and vegetables per day. Healthy proteins cooked by
themselves without fatty sauces and preservatives. Whole grains are important, but not too
much. Feel free to indulge in sweets and pasta and delicious fast food- but do it in extreme

Remember that as children, in our prime we only absorb 40% of the nutrition we consume. This is the maximum absorption. As adults, we absorb even less of the nutrition that we consume. Chewing your food enables your body to absorb the nutrition better. These are the essential requirements of a healthy, happy body and lifestyle.

Wishing you all the best,

Denise J. Mastro
Director, Founder

What are they thinking?

This is a familiar cry of bewildered parents trying to understand why their kids can’t read and write effectively, but are receiving good grades in school.  What is going on in the classroom?  Why aren’t American kids learning today?  These are some of the real questions that I want to start addressing on this site.  Back in the day, it was only the disadvantaged kids that weren’t learning.  Now the problem has crept into the middle-class, and upper middle-class.

I would love to hear your input, and your life experiences.  This blog hopes to address the real issues that no one ever talks about.  Let’s talk about accountability.  If our children are not learning in the classroom and their skill level has not improved what happens?  Far too often, kids are labeled “Special Ed” or “learning disabled” because they can’t reach the bench marks.  Is this a reflection of the students’ ability or inability to learn, or is this a reflection of a failed educational system.

Coincidentally, Special Education is one area that has really grown in the last decade.  This is a reflection of not only poor instruction and an ineffective classroom model, but also a reflection of the foods our children are consuming, and the lifestyle that has evolved with the computer age.  Mass quantities of corn-syrup are pumped into most of the juices on the shelves today.  If you’re not reading the label your children and family are probably consuming very unhealthy levels of toxic sugar that will ultimately affect their health and ability to reason and think clearly.  It also creates an environment where your children are more susceptible to illness, obesity and hyper activity, and an inability to focus or think clearly.

Just yesterday I heard on PBS that a group of doctors wanted to have sugar classified as a toxic substance.  Apparently, if one consumes mass quantities of sugar it has devastating effects to your body and mind.  These are very serious consequences.

According to the “New York Times”, Sunday Review- (January 28, 2012 issue), three million children in this country take drugs for problems related to focusing.  Towards the end of last year, many of their parents were deeply alarmed because there was a shortage of drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, that they considered absolutely essential to their children’s functioning.

In 30 years there has been a twentyfold increase in the consumption of drugs for attention-deficit disorder.  Why do we, as a nation of people, rely on these drugs so heavily?  Attention –deficit drugs increase concentration in the short term, which is why they work so well for college students cramming for exams.  But- when given to children over long periods of time, they neither improve school achievement nor reduce behavior problems.  The drugs can also have serious effects, including stunting growth.

Many children today need instruction that is meaningful.  For example, they need to work core skills that they do not know.  They need to have a variety of learning activities (practice), to help them learn the skill and internalize it without becoming bored.  They need to feel they are doing meaningful work that is helping them actually learn something substantial.  The lessons should not be abstract.  Old school teaching has a straight forward approach.  Most importantly they need to be in a nurturing environment, where they feel valued and appreciated.  This learning environment needs to be clean, safe and quiet enough to think and learn.

Stay tuned for more, and thanks you for reading!!


Denise J. Mastro