Essential Questions (FAQ)

How much does shipping and handling cost?

MethodArrival TimeCostMinimum Charge
Ground 7-14 days 10% of subtotal $10.00 per order
3-Day 4-5 days 12.5% of subtotal $12.50 per order
2-Day 3-4 days 15% of subtotal $15.00 per order
Next Day 1-2 days 20% of subtotal $40.00 per order
Next Day AM 1-2 days 25% of subtotal $50.00 per order

If you are located in North Carolina, we charge an additional 7.75% for taxes.

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How does Learning-Focused benefit students with Learning Disabilities?

Learning-Focused and Learning Disabilities While it would be ideal for a student with a learning disability, such as dyslexia, to be in a regular classroom with a teacher specifically trained how to best instruct the student based on his/her disability, a Learning-Focused classroom will offer many advantages to students with learning disabilities. In Learning-Focused classrooms, teachers put much more emphasis on:

• Connecting prior knowledge of students to the content

• Activating student thinking (helping them focus)

• Learning vocabulary (knowing and gaining vocabulary is THE KEY to learning) through exemplary vocabulary strategies (not spelling books, vocabulary books, or reading/writing definitions)

• Organizing and storing information using advance and graphic organizers (and then using them to recall information for a purpose)

• Working with partners to create understanding

• Distributing instruction and practice (instead of teaching a long time followed up with a long period of practice and homework)

• Using writing to learn, instead of learning to write (much less emphasis on grammar, spelling, etc. and more on enjoyment of learning through writing)

• Allowing students strengths to guide higher level thinking activities

• Students summarizing their learning in many diverse ways

• Preparing at-risk students in advance (learning skills/strategies in advance) of the classroom instruction so that they are successful at the time of intended learning (reduces remediation by 65%)

• Scaffolding grade level expected work so at-risk students can be successful with grade level requirements

This is not an exhaustive list, but is an example of what a Learning-Focused trained teacher will be doing in their classroom. Again, these are practices we find happening consistently and pervasively in the top 5% of schools in America. Typical schools will be doing a few of these practices, but not most of the time, nor by most of the teachers. Learning-Focused schools strive to become one of the top 5% exemplary schools using these practices and more, all of which are proven to help at-risk students (including students with learning disabilities) be successful.

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How do I let Learning-Focused know about typos or errors in the materials?

Please complete this form. Thank you for letting us know!

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We are looking for information about grading systems. I want a system that motivates students to learn yet reflects their progress. We want it to be fair, but encouraging-not discouraging. Can you direct me to some recommended examples?

Grading System Suggestions

There is a very good publication on McRel's website ( about implementing standards-based grading systems. Robert Marzano conducted a 4 year study on standards-based grading, how to do it, why do it, and includes lots of examples. We have had experience with this system in New Hartford Schools, NY. The teachers and parents really liked it once the initial shock of how different it was wore off.

While Marzano's Standard-Based Grading and Doug Reeve's work on assessment are both good references, one of the best summary of principles of effective grading is in Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design (ASCD) by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe. In their chapter on grading and reporting they answer the question: What grading and reporting practices support learning and encourage learners? They recommend six key principles:

1. Grades are based on clear learning goals and performance standards.
2. Evidence used for grading should be valid. (measures what we intend to measure)
3. Grading should be based on established criteria, not arbitrary.
4. Not everything should be included in grades.
5. Avoid grading based on averages and
6. Factors such as effort, participation, attendance, homework, etc. should be addressed separately.

If all of these recommendations are followed, grading would in fact be both fair and encouraging.

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Refund and Exchange Policy

Learning-Focused Solutions, Inc. will accept returns of products within 30 days of receipt of shipment for a refund. Learning-Focused Solutions, Inc. will accept returns of products within 45 days of receipt of shipment for an exchange or store credit.

All products must be unopened, unused, and still in their plastic wrap.

Call 866-95-LEARN to arrange the return for a refund or exchange.

Shipping and Handling charges are not refundable.

Products purchased that are made to order (Coaches Binders, Monitoring Binders, Redelivery Notes) will not be accepted for exchange or refund.

Defective products will be exchanged for the same product only.

If you have any questions about this refund and exchange policy, the practices of this site or the companies, or your dealings with this Web site, you can contact:

Learning-Focused Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 2112
Boone, NC 28607
866-77-LEARN (Fax)

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Looking for some answers that address misconceptions?

Do you have questions about Learning-Focused, such as:

* does Learning-Focused work?
* what does Learning-Focused prepare students for?
* does Learning-Focused force teaching to the test?
* and many more questions.

Click here to find your answers

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Where is there research on 90/90/90 schools?

What data do you have that Learning-Focused works?

We are working on some new project data.

We have long term data here about achievement gains when schools implemented the Learning-Focused Schools Model.

You can also look at our Presidential Preferred Schools Data

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Can I get example units from Learning-Focused?

At this time, other than what is in Toolbox, we do not have example units to share. Currently we do not have a method for teachers to share their units with us in order to share them with you. We are working on a search/sharing tool in Toolbox that will allow this that we hope to have available this year.

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How does Learning-Focused work with variations of the block schedule?

At Learning-Focused we do not specifically deal with scheduling. That being said, "Block Scheduling: A Catalyst for Change in High Schools" by Robert Canady and Michael Rettig is the "bible" of block scheduling. This is what anyone considering a variation of the block schedule should read first. A number of articles from Michael Rettig are also readily available online.

Doing a quick Google search will produce thousands of sites with suggestions for schedules.

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What are Kindergarten Writing Expectations?

It has been established for several years that one critical factor in kindergarten writing is that it supports a writing-to-read process in children. Whereas much attention has been directed to early intervention in beginning reading, instructional goals for writing in kindergarten classrooms have also been established for quite some time (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). However, due to wide-spread misunderstanding of the concept and term of developmentally appropriate, the standards have not been routinely established in many parts of the US. Developmentally Appropriate is HOW you teach, not WHAT you teach. With this in mind, along with the research base in understanding the writing-to-read kindergarten goals and process, the following standards, issued by the National Research Council (1999, revised 2003) illustrate the writing accomplishments that students should meet by the end of kindergarten:

  1. Independently writes many uppercase and lowercase letters.
  2. Uses phonemic awareness and letter knowledge to spell independently (invented or creative).
  3. Writes (unconventionally) to express own meaning.
  4. Builds a repertoire of some conventionally spelled words.
  5. Shows awareness of distinction between "kid writing" and conventional orthography.
  6. Can construct 6-8 writing-to-inform sentences on a single topic, using creative and/or conventionally spelled words.
  7. Can construct 2-4 creative writing sentences on a single topic, using creative and/or conventionally spelled words.

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Does Learning-Focused Reading work with Accelerated Reader?

Learning-Focused Reading Model describes, models and gives suggestions for implementing the five components of any good balanced literacy program. Students should experience these components everyday and the teachers need to ensure that the model is balanced to meet the needs of the students. It is important for students to work with grade level text (Teacher Directed) as well as with their instructional level (Flexible Grouping). There should be an explicit phonics program which teaches students how words work (Word Work). A time for students to read independently on their instructional reading level to build stamina and initiate the love of reading is also important (Self-selected). All of these components are extended and refined into the writing component. It is important for students to write everyday (Writing). Learning Concepts' Balanced Literacy consists of these five components and sets the structure for building a "tool box" for strategic instruction.

Accelerated Reader is a personalized instructional program. It meets the needs of the students on their appropriate reading level. It ensures success, initiates time on task and monitors the student's progress. Self confidence and motivation is built through assessments and adjusted instruction.

Learning-Focused reading model and Accelerated Reader are interconnected in various ways. They both focus on the appropriate reading level of the students which promotes growth and confidence to ensure success. This instructional framework allows teachers to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all students. The Learning-Focused Balanced Literacy reading model extends this framework to grade level instruction. This component monitors progress and directs instruction to prepare students for the end of the year test. Students have to be exposed to grade level text as well as text on their instructional level. The Learning-Focused model does both.

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How does Learning-Focused promote parent involvement?

Parent Involvement is central for successfully implementing the Learning-Focused model. The major focus of the Learning-Focused model is increased student achievement through higher student performance. Student performance is increased by consistently and pervasively implementing proven exemplary practices and through increased accountability - for students, teachers, administrators and parents.

During the Leadership phase of implementing the Learning-Focused model, superintendents, school board members, principals, and teacher leaders learn about exemplary practices and their potential for increasing student achievement. Part of the implementation plan is for the administrators to involve the community (parents) in the change process. This includes communication about the changes in the classroom, expectations for students, and the accountability plan for students.

During the Learning-Focused Strategies phase (training and implementation of the instructional strategies by classroom teachers), and the other instructional strategies phases (Reading Comprehension, Differentiated Assignments, and Catching Kids Up to name a few) teachers acquire the skills and knowledge to implement the Learning-Focused Strategies. Many of the strategies include components that involve parents. Some examples are student-led conferencing, conference logs, communicating with parents about individual student learning styles, accountability plans, reading logs, reading strategies for parents, rubric assessments, and acceleration strategies for parents.

Including parents in the implementation planning process, communicating about accountability, and conducting parent trainings for many of the strategies (especially Learning-Focused Reading Comprehension and vocabulary strategies from Catching Kids Up) are suggested practices when implementing the Learning-Focused model from Learning Concepts, Inc. Involving parents in these key areas has a profound impact on student performance not only because they use exemplary practices but also because students will begin to get the same strategies and learning vocabulary both at school and at home. Parents who understand some basics of the model and/or key strategies can hold their children more accountable for increasing performance.

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How does the Learning-Focused Strategies Model align with Danielson’s Framework for Teaching?

Alignment of Learning-Focused Strategies Model and Danielson’s Framework for Teaching:


Danielson’s Framework

  • Standards-Driven Unit Planning – LFS Model

  • K-U-D Organizers

  • Essential Questions

  • Assessment Prompts

  • Launch and activating strategies

  • Differentiated Assignments

  • Student Learning Maps

  • Common Assessments

  • Acquisition Lesson Plan and Extending Thinking Lesson Plan

  • Culminating Activity

  • Rubrics

Domain 1:

Planning and Preparation

  • Building/Posting Student Learning Maps

  • Word Walls

  • Posting Essential Questions

  • Posting Comprehension, Extending Thinking, Writing Strategies

  • Teacher Directed Instruction

  • Flexible Group Instruction

  • Learning Stations

  • Student Expectations

  • Students Performing Learning Tasks

  • Posting of Student Work (Organizers, Drafts, Final)

Domain 2:

The Classroom Environment

  • Acceleration

  • Previewing

  • Scaffolding

  • Advance Organizers

  • Activating Thinking

  • Vocabulary Strategies

  • Graphic Organizers

  • Collaborative Pairs

  • Collaborative Teams

  • Think-Pair-Share and other strategies

  • Distributed Practice

  • Distributed Summarizing

  • Assessment Prompts

  • Differentiated Assignments

  • Extending Thinking Activities and Assignments

  • Modeling

  • Memory Strategies

  • Rubrics

  • Summarizing

Domain 3:


  • Goal Setting Meetings

  • Reflection Meetings

  • Journals

  • Walkthroughs

  • Common Planning Times

  • Vertical Teaming

  • Student Learning Maps shared with parents

  • Strategies Flipcharts shared with parents

  • “Focus on Learning” Learning Communities

  • Planners

  • Student Folders

  • Onsite, Offsite, Online Professional Development

  • What Moves You Professional Development

  • Peer Teaching/Modeling

  • School-Based Coaching/Training

  • Networking Opportunities (Conferences)


Professional Responsibilities


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How are the two models, Learning-Focused Strategies Model and Understanding By Design, alike and different?

Many schools are implementing instructional frameworks using units and curriculum mapping. Schools
that have been through the Learning-Focused Strategies workshops have teachers that are trained to
plan using exemplary instruction through a standards driven unit design. The strength of mapping
curriculum through units allows for efficient, connected instructional planning tied directly to state and/or
national objectives. During LFS training, teachers are provided with the tools, knowledge, and support
necessary to deliver instruction through a unit framework.

How are the two models, Learning-Focused Strategies (LFS) and Understanding By Design (UBD),
alike and different?

Both LFS and UBD are backward-design planning models. Teachers' planning for student learning is
essential for both models to succeed. While UBD is tied to student understanding, it does not explicitly
address instructional strategies or higher level thinking. LFS is a model that is tied specifically to raising
achievement and embedding research-based strategies and evidence-based practices into lessons and
units. UBD does not include the instructional support necessary for teachers to successfully create
exemplary lesson plans for learning. UBD is very specific on using state objectives and content when
planning, making unit goals the strongest component of UBD, which adequately compares to the LFS
Model of K-U-D Organizers and Student Learning Maps. Both models have quality Performance
Task/Assessment components.

How can schools that have UBD units use Learning-Focused?

Schools that have been implementing UBD will find that instead of replacing UBD with LFS, they can
adapt the UBD developed maps to the strengths of the LFS Model to reach the achievement goals
desired. As shown in the comparison diagram on the next page, at the very least, the weak instructional
component of UBD should be supported by the extensive instructional component (Acquisition Lessons
and Extending Thinking Lessons) of LFS.

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What is the Importance of Previewing Key Content Area Vocabulary?

Students that come from disadvantaged backgrounds do not have the background knowledge necessary for successfully mastering content area academics without specific, proven, additional support. With the emphasis on learning content vocabulary in context in current research on what works to elevate schools, and now in the Common Core Standards, it is even more critical that teachers apply background building strategies with their struggling students. For these students, gaining background knowledge about key content vocabulary words prior to building context around those words during content lessons is the key for mastering grade level content.

It is often misunderstood, even by many curriculum experts, what research means by teaching vocabulary in context. It does not mean to simply teach a word when it arises during a lesson. It means that students know about the term, and build more meaning about the term in the context of the lesson. Because words have multiple meanings, it takes context in order for students t to accurately understand what the standards are expecting them to know and to understand the content satisfactorily. The key is that in order for students to understand the content (driven by state standards and Common Core Standards), they must also understand the vocabulary - in context - of the content.

Research has proven that when teachers build background knowledge prior to building context around terms during regular instruction, that, on average, they will have a percentile gain in achievement of 22 percentile points over students who did not get background building instruction (Meta-Analytic Synthesis of Studies Conducted at Marzano Research Laboratory on Instructional Strategies" August 2009). Studies have also repeatedly shown that previewing vocabulary improves comprehension (Laflamme, 1997; Billmeyer & Barton, 1998).

As part of implementing the Common Core Standards, it is imperative that students learn vocabulary in context. Ask yourself, How is it possible for struggling students, such as below grade-level readers, to determine meaning by using context clues if they do not know much of the vocabulary in what is being read or heard? If you want all of your students to actually learn and retain the content vocabulary, then it is just as vital that you preview key vocabulary and teach vocabulary during content area lessons using research-based vocabulary instruction strategies and processes. Both previewing and vocabulary instruction processes that have been proven to work can be found in the Catching Kids Up with Acceleration book and the Vocabulary Instruction book.

Remember, the Common Core Standards provide the expectations for WHAT students will know and do. HOW students gain the expected skills and concepts is up to you. Let evidence from Exemplary Practices research and evidence from research-based strategies lead your HOW. Following the Learning-Focused Strategies framework, the practices of Acceleration, and the strategies of Vocabulary Instruction (which all 3 connect together in order to be efficient and practical for implementation), will ensure that all of your students learn the content of your state standards and Common Core Standards. Teachers will quickly find that they have to re-teach much less and that more of their students are "getting it" at the right time.


How does Learning-Focused work with scripted programs (such as READ 180, Reading Recovery, etc)?

Learning-Focused does not advocate taking a scripted program and trying to make it fit a Learning-Focused Acquisition Lesson plan. If your school is implementing a scripted program, we recommend the following based on how Exemplary Schools use scripted programs:

  1. Instead of having fidelity to the scripted program, have fidelity to learning. Gain the strategies and practices from the program and then determine how to make it work for you and your students. Exemplary Schools don't follow the "rules" that scripted programs try to mandate. They definitely don't let a person or company from another state tell them what they have to absolutely do in order to implement the program. Instead, they learn how to do it and especially why and when it works, and then determine how they want to use various components, when, and with who and create their own "program" that works for them, remaining flexible and focused on learning. Adapt program practices!

  2. Determine the purpose of the scripted program and if that purpose aligns with some of your learning goals, then only use the parts of the program that match your goals. Do not feel compelled to use all of a program for the students in the program. Use it purposefully and only based on each student's particular needs.

  3. Ensure that a someone with a great deal of experience and expertise on the learning purpose that the program is being used for is working with teachers and students to fill learning gaps that are inevitable with a program.

  4. Determine the Standards the program addresses. Develop learning plans to provide instruction on Standards not addressed by the program or does not address enough for higher priority Standards. In addition, for lower priority Standards, determine how to compact the program that address those Standards.

  5. Ensure that the program is used as a second dose of needed instruction and does not replace classroom grade level instruction.