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August 31, 2004

New Research Provides The First Solid Evidence That The Study Of Music Promotes Intellectual Development

Source: American Psychological Society

Date: 2004-08-20

The idea that studying music improves the intellect is not a new one, but at last there is incontrovertible evidence from a study conducted out of the University of Toronto.

The study, led by Dr. E. Glenn Schellenberg, examined the effect of extra-curricular activities on the intellectual and social development of six-year-old children. A group of 144 children were recruited through an ad in a local newspaper and assigned randomly to one of four activities: keyboard lessons, voice lessons, drama lessons, or no lessons. Two types of music lessons were offered in order to be able to generalize the results, while the groups receiving drama lessons or no lessons were considered control groups in order to test the effect of music lessons over other art lessons requiring similar skill sets and nothing at all. The activities were provided for one year.

The participating children were given IQ tests before and after the lessons. The results of this study revealed that increases in IQ from pre- to post-test were larger in the music groups than in the two others. Generally these increases occurred across IQ subtests, index scores, and academic achievement. Children in the drama group also exhibited improvements pre- to post-test, but in the area of adaptive social behavior, an area that did not change among children who received music lessons.

This study is published in the August issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the American Psychological Society. View a PDF (78k) of the full article.

E. Glenn Schellenberg is currently with the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. He can be reached via e-mail at

Psychological Science is ranked among the top 10 general psychology journals for impact by the Institute for Scientific Information. The American Psychological Society represents psychologists advocating science-based research in the public's interest.

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Fine Arts Coordinator

Board Ignores Fine Arts Teachers June Plea For Fine Arts Coordinator Academic Support � Instead, Board Adds Back $210,000 (4 athletic coordinators and 1 administrator downtown) Into the Extra-Curricular High School Athletics Budget

Board Ignores Fine Arts Teachers June Plea For Fine Arts Coordinator Academic Support � Instead, Board Adds Back $210,000 (4 athletic coordinators and 1 administrator downtown) Into the Extra-Curricular High School Athletics Budget.

After last night�s Board meeting, I became convinced that the current School Board is not acting to stop the continued erosion and degradation of the Fine Arts academic curriculum. As our City begins to enter a new arts phase, MMSD�s School Board seems out of touch with Madison�s values and what its Fine Arts teachers need to do their job.

Last night I attended my first school board meeting in nearly 3 months, and I was saddened by the School Board�s decision (6-1, Robarts opposed) to add back into the budget $210,000 for extracurricular high school athletic administration (5 FTEs). This money is coming from the District�s contingency fund, which is used to cover extra teachers that may be needed at the start of the school year. These 5 athletic FTEs in four high schools and the downtown office are part of the administrative team that would oversee the activities of the $2 million extra-curricular sports budget. For comparison, the former 0.5 FTE Fine Arts Coordinator oversaw more than 100 staff (less than $5 million budget for more than 20,000 participants) in 47 schools.

The 5 positions include the addition of .5 FTE which would make the downtown Athletic Coordinator a full-time position. Even though the Superintendent did not explain in his August 26, 2004 memo to the Board what this additional time would be used for, he said he needed to add back the time because he had committed to this person a two-year contract back on February 1, 2004! The appearance is that the superintendent couldn�t find an existing administration position for this person.

Before the decision was made to add $210,000 back into the extra-curricular athletics budget, I spoke during public appearances and asked the School Board if the District had looked at the workload surrounding the Fine Arts Coordinator. What professional will be reviewing the national standards, the state standards, the MMSD curriculum, training staff in two-year training, providing general support for more than 100 professionals in 47 schools with allocations as small as 0.1 in some schools.

Further, why wasn�t administrative and educational support for teachers in the Fine Arts being considered at the same time that other areas such as extra-curricular athletics was being considered? Nothing has been done on the need for coordination of the arts curriculum since last May. Art did say that he met with people to discuss the Fine Arts Coordinators workload. More importantly, though, what is being done and why did this take nearly three months to do? Teachers start classes on Wednesday, September 1st! Where�s the help?

According to the Superintendent, it seems there was a union contract issue regarding how the athletic administrative positions in the schools could be configured. Also, the Superintendent was concerned that no one would even want a position that was 0.4, less than a full-time position. Of course, that�s nothing fine arts teachers would know about � positions less than full-time!

The Superintendent did offer the School Board several options to choose from regarding extra-curricular sports administration with costs ranging from $0 - $210,000. Did the School Board pick the least expensive option offered by the Superintendent? No, the School Board chose the most labor-intensive, expensive option!

Did the School Board even direct the Superintendent to make the necessary personnel changes but keep the budget the same, working with coaches and parents to come up with workable solutions? No!

Teachers need a Fine Arts Coordinator � contact the school board and let them know that academics need support. .

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August 30, 2004

ACE White Paper: Fund 80 & After School

Don Severson forwarded this Active Citizens for Education white paper on Fund 80 [272K PDF] and related after school changes.

This site has a number of posts on the after school changes (essentially: replacing community after school partnerships with taxpayer funded MSCR programs via Fund 80. Fund 80, unlike other school expenditures is not limited by state spending caps).

The school board meets tonight (8.30.2004; 7:15p.m. in room 103) to discuss the controversy.

Send your views to:

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August 29, 2004

Diary of an Advisory Committee: Madison Board of Education Selects Citizen Advisors

On August 13, Madison Board President Bill Keys and I agreed to recommend nine citizens plus the two student School Board members to the 2004-05 Advisory Committee to the Long Range Planning Committee.

On August 30, the Board will vote on the nominations:

Hardin Coleman (nominated by Johnny Winston, Jr.)
Dawn Crim (nominated by Johnny Winston, Jr.)
Joan Eggert (nominated by Bill Keys)
Jill Jokela (nominated by Carol Carstensen)
Lucy Mathiak (nominated by Ruth Robarts)
Patrick Mooney (nominated by Bill Clingan)
Jan Sternbach (nominated by Juan Lopez)
Teresa Tellez-Giron (nominated by Juan Lopez) and
Xa Xiong (nominated by Shwaw Vang).

The student members are the students elected to serve on the Board for 2004-05: Oliver Kiefer and Lena Song (alternate).

The first meeting with citizens as non-voting advisors is also on August 30.

At this meeting the citizens will review decisions of the Long Range Planning Committee from last May and June. During the year, the Long Range Planning Committee will review administrative recommendations regarding referendum for deferred maintenance and for new elementary schools.

Several of the nominees were active supporters of the June 2003 referendum for operating funds, including Jan Sternbach who provided leadership for "Citizens for Investing in Madison Schools", a pro-referendum campaign organization.

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August 28, 2004

Taxpayer advocates seek School Fund 80 Audit

Don Severson forwarded this message recently

Taxpayer advocates will hold a news conference Friday, August 27th at 1:00 p.m. at the Sequoia Library, 513 South Midvale Boulevard (Midvale Plaza) to call for an audit of �Community Services Fund 80� of the Madison School District. Don Severson, president of the Active Citizens for Education (ACE), will ask for an independent audit of �Fund 80� which is used by school district officials to fund �community service programs�. The fund has come under recent scrutiny because of its growth � over 200% in four years � and its use in pushingYMCA after-school programs out of certain Madison schools. Parents of children in the after school program held a news conference this past Monday to highlight the issue. Severson will also preview a radio ad, which begins airing Friday, August 27 and is sponsored byACE, appealing to taxpayers to contact Madison school board members and district officials. The Madison School Board is holding a special meeting Monday night at 7:00 p.m. at the DoyleAdministration Building to hear concerns of parents of children in the after-school program.

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August 26, 2004

Discovery Learning Thread

Interesting thread on discovery learning, with notes from Alan Siegel's study of videotaped Japanese Math lessons:

Discovery learning is fashionable in math reform circles, writes Seebach. The Japanese are supposed to be the models. But the Japanese teach traditionally -- with "beautifully designed and superbly executed" lessons.

The videotape shows, Siegel says, that "a master teacher can present every step of a solution without divulging the answer, and can, by so doing, help students learn to think deeply. In such circumstances, the notion that students might have discovered the ideas on their own becomes an enticing mix of illusion intertwined with threads of truth."

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August 22, 2004

Early Kindergarden Admission

Amy Hetzner on Waukesha's decision to halt early kinderdarten admissions:

The Waukesha School Board decided earlier this year to eliminate early admission for children who have not celebrated their fifth birthday by Sept. 1, arguing that the expense of testing the children outweighed the benefit for the few who got in to kindergarten.

The move puts the district at the center of a national trend that observers say is resulting in an older crop of kindergartners

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Transfer rejected, then approved - San Jose High School

Jon Fortt:

The incident reveals one of the challenges inherent in the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001: How do you rescue a struggling school when so many students, often the more ambitious, want out?

"That's the youngster that's going to raise my test scores,'' said Esparza, part of a turnaround team that arrived six months ago hoping to lift James Lick from the lowest levels of test performance. James Lick is one of 18 schools in Santa Clara County where test scores have remained so low that students are allowed to transfer. "It's hard to take, that there's a law that says your child has a right to move on.''

via Joanne Jacobs.

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August 18, 2004

Diary of an Advisory Committee: the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board Reaches Out to Citizens

In the late spring of 2004, I had the idea that inviting a group of citizens to work with the Long Range Planning Committee of the Madison School Board might help the Committee ask better questions of the administration and explore more options during the next year. In 2004-05, the Committee will consider the possibility of another referendum to fund maintenance of the district's buildings and try to solve overcrowding problems at Leopold Elementary School. It will also develope a 3-5 year long range plan for presentation to the Board by the end of the spring semester

In this log, I will relate our progress toward this goal.

May 2004

I proposed that the committee appoint nine non-voting citizens to help us: three who use our facilities, such as parents and staff; three from other local governments or the University of Wisconsin; and three from the general community, such as business or organization leaders. I thought that having a range of viewpoints and experience would improve our discussions and decisions.

I presented the proposal for an advisory committee to LRP Committee members Carol Carstensen and Johnny Winston, Jr. at a meeting. After discussion, the committee modified my proposal. In addition, the Committee decided against making its own appointments of citizens. Instead, the Committee voted that each Board member would submit names of three nominees by August 1. It also added the student Board representatives as advisory committee members. After the deadline, President Bill Keys and I, as Committee chair, were to choose nine citizens to recommend for approval by the Board.

June - July 2004

Over the summer I began to plan the twice-monthly LRP meetings so that the committee and citizens will receive information about issues and administrative proposals at the first meeting and the committee would take action at the second meeting. I met with Mary Gulbrandsen, Chief of Staff (deputy superintendent) to plan the meetings. We scheduled the first of the fall meetings and discussed the most efficient ways to get information to the Committee and its Advisory Citizen Committee. We hope to post all information relevant to our discussions on the MMSD web site, so that our citizen members and the public can review the same materials presented to LRP.

August 2004

By August 13, all Board members had made their nominations.

On Thursday, August 19 , President Bill Keys and I will meet to select the nine citizens whom we will recommend to the Board. He invited staff member Mary Gulbrandsen to join us to "interpreting where various qualifications, etc., fit". I have objected to her participation because the Board specifically directed only the two elected members of the Board to make these recommendations. Especially when we are selecting a citizen group to help us review information and recommendations from the administration, it seems inappropriate to let the administration screen the citizens.

I hope to meet with Mr. Keys tomorrow and conclude this stage of the selection process.

Ruth Robarts, Chair of Long Range Planning Committee

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August 17, 2004

Profits & Poverty

Ruth's informative diary on the Long Range Planning Committee's inclusiveness goals provides context for C.K. Prahalad's interesting new book: The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Eradicating Poverty Through Profits

He is a fierce critic of traditional top-down thinking on aid, by governments and non-governmental organisations alike. They tend to see the poor as victims to be helped, he says, not as people who can be part of the solution�and so their help often creates dependency. Nor does he pin much hope on the �corporate social responsibility� (CSR) programmes of many large companies. If you want serious commitment from a firm, he says, its involvement with the poor �can't be based on philanthropy or CSR�. The involvement of big business is crucial to eradicating poverty, he believes, but BOP markets must �become integral to the success of the firm in order to command senior management attention and sustained resource allocation.�
Learn more about the book here.

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Immersion better for kids than bilingual classes, study says

Louie Villalobos summarizes a recent study by the Arizona Department of Education:

The Arizona results showed students in immersion classes outperformed bilingual education students in every grade level between second and eighth grade in reading, language and math, based on Stanford 9 scores.

There starts to be a significant difference at the sixth-grade level, at which immersion students were more than one year ahead of the bilingual students in math.

By the eighth grade, there was at least a one-year difference in all three subjects.

"There is not a single exception," Horne said. "It tells us that the students in English immersion do substantially better."

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California State Test Scores Released

Nanette Asimov, Tanya Schevitz and Carrie Sturrock summarize the Golden State's latest 4th and 10th grade results:

Last spring, nearly 4.8 million students in grades 2 through 11 took the exam, which is considered tough because it measures the students' knowledge of what the state says they need to know about English, math, science and history.

Statewide, 36 percent of students scored "proficient" or "advanced" on the English portion, up from 35 percent last year. The remaining students scored below par, at "basic," "below basic" or "far below basic."

In math, proficiency inched up from 40.5 to 41.6 percent of students in grades 2 through 7 since last year. Older students, tested in a variety of math subjects, slipped in algebra and geometry.

Only 20 percent of low-income students were proficient in English, while among wealthier students, 50 percent were proficient. The rates were identical last year.

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Charter Schools Test Scores/Commentary

Barb Williams forwarded this article by Diana Jean Schemo:

The data shows fourth graders attending charter schools performing about half a year behind students in other public schools in both reading and math. Put another way, only 25 percent of the fourth graders attending charters were proficient in reading and math, against 30 percent who were proficient in reading, and 32 percent in math, at traditional public schools.

Because charter schools are concentrated in cities, often in poor neighborhoods, the researchers also compared urban charters to traditional schools in cities. They looked at low-income children in both settings, and broke down the results by race and ethnicity as well. In virtually all instances, the charter students did worse than their counterparts in regular public schools.

Additional Coverage:

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August 16, 2004

Parents Angry about Pay to Play

NPR's Talk of the Nation Audio:

What options do you have if your school says there's no money for football, the Spanish club or student government? "Pay to pay" has become the option for an increasing number of public schools, an alternative that's not very popular.

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Milwaukee: few transfer out of low scoring schools

Sarah Carr:

Fewer than 2% of students eligible to transfer out of low-performing Milwaukee schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act will do so this fall.

Of about 19,000 students eligible for transfers, 410 submitted valid requests. Milwaukee Public Schools officials said they will give 280 of those students their first or second choices, but will probably not be able to accommodate the rest primarily because of space limitations at some schools.

"For the 280 students, this is an advantage," said MPS Superintendent William Andrekopoulos. "But overall is this something that is going to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the city? No, I don't think so."

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August 11, 2004

Madison Schools Need Strong Community Partners to Provide High Quality After School Care to All Children

This article is a Letter to the Editor submitted to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Thanks for the editorial, ?What?s going on after school?? Questioning the Madison School Board?s rush to replace private, non-profit after school day care providers with tax-supported Safe Haven programs operated through the Madison School Community Recreation program is a public service.

Last year we had 4,437 low-income children in our elementary schools. As a community, we should support all of them with high quality after school care. However, the district must continue to work with community providers to reach this goal. The scope of the problem is far beyond the district?s capacity.

You were correct in your facts about the proposed change. Some key
points bear repeating.

As you said, ?nothing is wrong with existing programs?.
Safe Haven programs meet only the state?s child care standard, a minimal standard.
They do not meet the higher standard of city accreditation met by current providers such as the YMCA and After School, Inc. Lacking city accreditation results in lower rates of state reimbursement for low-income children in Safe Haven programs. Less funding is one cause of less-qualified staff in Safe Haven programs.

In terms of academic opportunities, City evaluations of Safe Haven in 2003 criticized MSCR?s program for lack of ?activities that encourage children?s independent learning experiences? and recommended additional training for staff on developmentally appropriate choices for children. As the City has told the superintendent, ?it is our experience that the orientation of the MSCR programs is not generally toward after school childcare. It is recreation-based?.

?Safe Haven will cost parents and taxpayers more money?. That is beyond dispute. By rushing into this change without consulting parents served
by the current programs, we guarantee that some parents will leave with the displaced programs, depriving MSCR of their fees. We lose the rent paid by the providers that off-sets some of our building and custodial costs. We incur greater staffing, training, transportation, and administrative costs and pass those to the parents and taxpayers.

?Transportation costs are a non-issue?.
Also correct. Whether we contract with current providers to transport more low-income childrenhome or pay for transportation to Safe Haven sites, the costs will depend on the number of children added, not on the nature of the provider.

The Board is poised to make this change at Allis and Lincoln-Midvale Schools on August 30. As Superintendent Rainwater told us in June, the money is the next year?s budget, although the Board had no notice of the dollars or this new purpose and has never considered the academic issues, the financial impacts or the effects of our action on our partners in providing after school care?the non-profits and the City of Madison.

The time to contact Board members with your concerns is now. You can reach all Board members at

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 6:18 PM | Comments (399) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

Parent Responds to MSCR Editorial About Safe Haven Programs

Judy Sekulski is a parent at Midvale-Lincoln School in Madison. In this article she responds to the Madison district administration's recent public statements about Safe Haven programs.

I am writing in response to Lucy Chaffin's column on
July 12, 2004, ("Schools Offer Quality Childcare"),
about the Safe Haven after-school programs run by
MSCR. She states that, "The district doesn't support
separate programs running side-by-side in elementary
schools (as was the case last year at Midvale) because
this results in segregation by income and race."

This implies that the Safe Haven program at Midvale will
integrate the children in one program. This is not accurate.
There will be a K-5 Safe Haven at both Midvale and Lincoln
campuses, with children who attend each campus returning
to their neighborhood campus for Safe Haven care, so that
siblings from grades K-2 and 3-5 can be together, near
their homes. So, this will not integrate the children who
currently attend the K-5 Midvale AFTER SCHOOL
program and the Midvale Safe Haven program.

It was unfair of her to imply that those of us who want
to keep AFTER SCHOOL at Midvale somehow
condone the separation of the kids there by race. In
September 2003, the district created the "side-by-side"
situation at Midvale (where AFTER SCHOOL has
operated for 25 years), by installing a K-2 Safe Haven
there, when there was already a Safe Haven at Lincoln.

AFTER SCHOOL is already a diverse program, with
staff and students of color. If it had access to the
tax dollars to which Safe Haven does, it could expand its
existing programs to serve more low income children.
It is by no means elitist. It has been a good partner
with our schools for over 25 years, providing high
quality care in an environment of respect, equality,
and fair play.

Jane Sekulski, a Midvale-Lincoln parent

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After School Child Care in Madison: Why the Madison Schools Should Continue Community Partnerships

On July 12, the Madison Board of Education will review proposals from Superintendent Rainwater that may mean the end of a long and successful collaboration between the district, the City of Madison and private child care providers to ensure quality after-school child care for elementary students. Apparently the superintendent plans to argue that MMSD can do a better job and can afford to expand into the after-school care business.

For nearly two decades, the district and the City have worked in partnership to provide high quality after-school child care for MMSD elementary students. MMSD has provided low-cost space in schools and the City has provided quality assurance, evaluating programs and training staff.

Because the City requires private providers to be city-accredited, the City holds the private programs to high standards for programs and staff. The one exception to that rule is the Safe Haven program operated by MMSD through the Madison School-Community Recreation program. Safe Haven monitors its own programs under standards that fall short of the accreditation standards.

Late this spring when parents of students enrolled at YMCA and After School Inc. programs at Allis and Midvale-Lincoln schools hoped to place their children in the same programs for fall 2004, the parents learned that Safe Haven will replace those providers. For private paying parents, fees will increase.

Parents have questioned this change for good reasons. First, they value the current providers and the quality of programs. Second, they know that Safe Haven will not be held to the same program and staffing standards. Third, they wonder why they must pay more for the MSCR program, a program paid for by taxes.

The private providers express legitimate concerns also. They continue to value the partnership with MMSD. They are very willing to work with the district to improve transportation or other services if necessary. At the same time, they are small organizations that cannot expand and contract in size every time that MMSD comes up with new funding for Safe Haven. They wonder whether MMSD plans to displace all private providers of after-school child care.

As a Board member, I question this direction. In a time of budget constraints, we must nurture community partnerships. Displacing proven programs goes in the opposite direction. At all times, we must seek the highest quality care for the children of our community. Substituting MMSD programs for accredited programs fails that standard.

Finally, the only way that MMSD can afford to increase Safe Haven programs is to continue to increase that part of residential property taxes that is not subject to revenue limits?the so-called ?community services? levy. Unless we believe that Safe Haven programs are more important than the school programs and teaching positions that we have cut, we should not increase our community service costs. The same taxpayers fund both. Voters have no choice when we increase community service spending. However, they can vote no on future referendums to pay operating costs for the schools.

To comment, contact me at or 238-2273 or all Board members at or 663-1659.

This information appeared as a Guest Editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal in June, 2004.

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 5:37 PM | Comments (422) Subscribe to this site via RSS/Atom: Newsletter signup | Send us your ideas

August 9, 2004

California Plans to Restructure Education System

Nanette Asimov:

The California Performance Review team that drafted the efficiency plan is recommending a constitutional amendment to abolish all 58 county Boards of Education, the 53 elected county superintendents and the five who are appointed. School districts, with their school boards and superintendents, would remain intact.

In place of the county offices of education would be 11 super centers doing the same work -- running programs for severely disabled students and kids in trouble with the law, helping teachers improve their skills, acting as fiscal watchdogs over school districts and more.

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Latin America School Improvements

Claudio Sanchez reports (NPR):

Throughout Latin America, political and education officials are considering long-term plans to improve the region's struggling public schools. Researchers recently met in the Dominican Republic to discuss education strategy. A successful public school in one of Santo Domingo's worst neighborhoods could serve as a model for schools elsewhere in Latin America

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August 7, 2004

Fear of School Violence Survey

Raquel Rutledge reports that:

13% of students surveyed reveal they skipped out to avoid possible run-in

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August 5, 2004

MMSD After School: Costs more & does?

The WSJ editorial page asks some questions about the MMSD's

plans to cancel contracts with the YMCA and After School Inc. to run child-care programs at Frank Allis, Falk and Midvale schools. Parents and taxpayers are still waiting for a persuasive explanation from administrators and board members.
The editorial raises a number of useful questions on this topic. Read more here.

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August 2, 2004

Wordcount - Tracking the way we use language

Fascinating site:

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