Shifting resources to "bubble students"

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Mark94544, Jan 29, 2011.

  1. Mark94544

    Mark94544 Companion

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    Jan 29, 2011

    I've written in several threads about my dismay when my child's elementary school dropped all Science and History curriculum, because teachers and the school were being evaluated primarily (perhaps exclusively) on their students' scores on standardized math and reading tests.

    In the "What's Coming Down the Pike Next" discussion thread, I wrote:

    > "I've heard reports (yes, anecdotal, hopefully exaggerated) of schools where teachers were urged to focus mostly on specific students whose scores were "just below" a benchmark, since it would be easier to push them up -- at the expense of ignoring students who were further behind." <

    http://forums.atozteacherstuff.com/showthread.php?t=130739

    I was actually surprised at the immediate, honest responses from several teachers:

    > "This was common practice at the middle school where I student taught." <​

    > "This was the practice of my former district as well. We called them "bubble" students, and they were even isolated in to specific classes! When the admin looked at projected scores for the upcoming year, they would focus on these "bubble" kids. We knew exactly who they were and spent a great deal of time and money on educating them..." <​

    > "Oh yes, They certainly did this in the district where I was an intern teacher. Also, we spend copious amounts of time determining which students fell into the most categories, because a poor, biracial, english language learner was "worth" four students toward the AYP. We also spent a ridiculous amount of time matching the standards the students did the poorest on with the standards that garnished to most weight on the year end test. That was how we were to decide what to teach during the re-teach days. It was all a gigantic waste of time and did NOTHING to improve education for the students." <​

    Isn't anyone outraged about this?

    We're not talking about focusing on "remediation" for all students who are "not yet proficient," but instead, disproportionately allocating resources to "bubble children" whose test scores appear to be the "easiest to bump to the next level," denying comparable services to students whose proficiency level is not "just below" the next level.

    Is there any chance at all that this practice is legal?
     
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  3. TeacherApr

    TeacherApr Groupie

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    How would it be illegal?
    Teachers are supposed to teach students. They do.

    At my school it's common to hear "focus on the bubble students" and it's because THE STATE is wanting to see results and is expecting that a certain percentage of kids are at certain levels. It's how schools get their money. The change needs to happen at the STATE level.
     
  4. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    I can honestly say "I have never heard this." We do not do this at my district (nor my last district.)
     
  5. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    In my state parents should expect that their children are taught to the standard course of study. This is a promise that the state makes to its people.

    My children attended a science and math magnet elementary school. They received, for the most part, well-rounded education. Starting about three years ago I saw a shift in focus. The school was primarily concerned with teaching only the extreme students - those who were exceptionally gifted and those that were at risk. The rest were pretty much left to fend for themselves. But the basic curriculum was still taught in the classroom. All subject areas.
     
  6. TeacherApr

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    I just think in a "perfect world" yes, all students in all schools would have enough time to teach every subject across the board plus receive specials (art music pe library) and teachers get their necessary and needed planning time every day. Apparently this is old school.

    If we didn't have Obama breathing down our backs thinking he knows what is best (longer school day, schools open on Saturdays, 3rd graders not reading are to be held back..but um...where do we put all of them and what about kids who should be receiving spec ed or resource but yet according to outdated tests they don't qualify for these services) and the state breathing down our backs telling us what they think should be done when they don't have a background in teaching and then PARENTS blaming teachers THEN stuff like this wouldn't be happening.
     
  7. TeacherShelly

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    Jan 29, 2011

    Teachers are instructed to refer students for summer school in math or reading IF they are just below benchmark. Since a child must be referred by a teacher to be selected for summer school, this is one gate to find the bubble children. Next gate: the district chooses who to offer summer school to.

    The official explanation for this is that our experience shows that children who are too far below benchmark do not show the growth that just-below children do. Summer school is just too short to help those far below bench.

    Hmph.
     
  8. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    We identify "focal students" in our classes who are just below the proficient level on the state tests. We're supposed to pay extra attention to them in class, especially on reading, writing, and math activities. Most teachers think it's dumb and don't do anything differently than we otherwise would, but the administration still makes us go through the motions every year.
     
  9. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    This is extremely common around here, but it doesn't mean that the lowest dont get resources. My opinion is split on this issue. I see the point of schools wanting to make AYP. But we also know that the lowest kids need more instruction. When I was coordinating tutoring sessions, we picked "bubble kids" that were the most likely to make the jump to Proficient. But that practice doesn't follow the RTI model.
     
  10. Securis

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    This is how it is at my school. I have apologized to my students a few times for what has been and is being stolen from them by the whole high stakes testing program. It makes me sick to see my students quail at attempting anything outside the 'norm' because their creative sense is being striped from them.
     
  11. Mark94544

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    Jan 30, 2011

    Wow.

    So what I'm reading in two of these three posts is, it's okay to do it because "the state makes us do it."

    I don't think that's true; I think most educators believe that NCLB (as implemented in their state) sets goals that are nearly impossible to achieve without manipulation, and imposes unreasonable penalties. And many educators (at every level) have concluded that they can only avoid "failing" status by manipulating the system: reallocating resources unfairly and using an assortment of tricks to try to maximize the ratings of teachers and schools -- even though this will mean a lower quality education. These educators are making a conscious choice to sacrifice the education these children deserve, in order to avoid irrational punishments.

    But surely the states prohibit schools from intentionally diverting regular classroom resources to focus on a handful of "bubble students," or ignoring entire content areas (history, science) along with "untestable and infrequently-tested" standards in math and reading?

    Is this stuff in writing? Surely states don't send advice like this to county or local school districts, and school districts don't send advice like this ("focus on bubble students") to principals and teachers?

    For summer school and perhaps after-school tutoring programs, it might make sense to ask teachers to evaluate and "refer first" those students who might avoid being retained with the help of those programs, instead of students who cannot avoid that (and who will thus benefit from an extra year of instruction). Only some "bubble students" meet this criteria, but so do some non-bubble students.

    Teachers should be working "the best they can" to teach all students in their classrooms. Invariably most teachers must allocate more time (including planning time for differentiated lessons and assignments) to students who are "below grade level," or who have other special needs.

    And there is an understandable "triage mentality" that forms -- "I can't get through to all these kids, so I'll give a little bit (or a lot) more time on the ones who are most likely to benefit from my extra time."

    But all of this should be for genuine education, not to manipulate test scores which don't fairly measure what our students need to learn. It shouldn't be a video game (get the right score, and you get an extra life, er, contract renewal), nor should we "punt" a bunch of our students (don't give them a fair share of your attention, since they'll still score the same proficiency level this year, and next year they'll be the bubble students for some other teacher).

    Finally, I recognize that as part of the attempt to comply with NCLB's requirements, many educators have taken actions that they believe are best for students, and which do improve students' education. There are lots of great ideas out there. But "abandoning entire content areas" or "re-allocating classroom resources to 'bubble students'" are not good ideas.
     
  12. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    Yes, sometimes states do send the message, but not officially. More through trainings on data analysis and coaching trainings. But I think you need to define what you specifically think is unfair, because "bubble students" is just a term for kids who are slightly below Proficient or Partially Proficient. But they're still kids who need extra help, so it is doing them good. Is it mostly the state tesing aspect, the dropping untested curriculum, or only select students receiving services?
    The problem I have with it is that the neediest kids are flying under the radar because they feeling us they will never catch up enough to count, but that doesn't mean they aren't necessarily getting any services. I guess it really depends on the school.
    ETA: Mark I just reread your original post. Are you a teacher or a parent? You wrote about something you heard from your kids school but didn't know if you have a teacher background as well.
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Mark, I agree with you 100%.

    I've never heard of this practice. But if I had any inkling that it was happening in my kids' school, you can believe I would be pretty vocal about it.
     
  14. KinderCowgirl

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    We have lots of resources for the kids who are in the "low" category-tutorials, pull-outs, RTI. I see nothing wrong with giving the "bubble" students as you call them the same focus. It's the advanced kids I feel badly for-they get no focus at all.

    If our students don't score well on tests, we lose our jobs-plain and simple. That's all they are looking at now-it's a pure numbers game. We started testing Science a few years ago and it was so funny the first time-schools hadn't taught it in awhile-the scores were pitiful. Now we have to teach science. Social studies is coming for us-we'll have to add that in too.

    My point is teachers don't have much choice in the matter what they teach. If we are told to focus on reading and math and go against that directive, our job is on the line. If our scores drop, our job is on the line. Who cares about teaching children to actually think? There are lots of jobs out there where being good at bubbling answers will be enough to get them by.
     
  15. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    In my district, we had a number of teachers very vocal when the administration wanted to focus on the bubble students and take away science and social studies. Hence, we still teach science and social studies.

    So, we follow the RtI triangle. We put in place intervention times for students. It's not prefect, but if a student cannot read, they will not succeed in science and social studies classes. It is true.

    So, for our bubble students (or tier 2 students as well call them), we give then one extra intervention during their specials times (art, music, etc). Depending on the student's needs they may attend an extra reading class one day to all five days a week.

    Then for our tier 3 students (or those who are way behind) we fit in two extra interventions a day. They miss specials and social studies to receive extra reading support. I hate that these students are not receiving instruction in social studies (but the reading specialist does find reading stories that hit some of our social studies content so that they are not missing everything).

    We are not yet exploring math and writing during school. These are merely afterschool classes, which we offer each day. Students are then giving the option to sign up for these classes with busing provided.

    I'm scared to think what will happen when students are going to get math and writing in addition to reading during the day. Where will the time come from.

    But for our students who are meeting expectations, they will not miss social studies and science. This will not be taken out of their day. Our teachers simply will not allow it!
     
  16. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Jan 30, 2011

    In California, on the CST test, students are rated either advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic.

    The problem is there is only one magic number the state cares about when it awards the all-important API number - the percentage of students who are either proficient or advance.

    This is a giant flaw in the system that only the legislature and congress can fix.

    It was actually said out loud at a staff meeting. We made our API but ended up on a school improvement plan due to one of our math subgroups. One person suggested and everyone agreed - "When it comes to intervention, we should focus on the basic students because if they move up to proficient that will solve the problem."

    Of course, the irony is that "No Child Left Behind" has essentially caused a whole lot of children to be intentionally left behind because school districts run the risk of being taken over by the state if they don't.
     
  17. TeacherApr

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    How does that work? Do the other kids notice that they are gone therefore they are the low kids? What do the parents think of this? What about their grade in specials? I'm intrigued :)
     
  18. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I'm sure that the other students notice that they are gone...but so many students are receiving intervention at some time during the day that no one questions. Most parents don't mind because they want their child to learn to read. They don't mind them missing art to get an extra reading class.

    At my school, students receive a grade in specials but the specials teachers only grade for when the student is in class. The students who miss a few days receive a P/F grade. The students who miss everything receive an Intervention grade.
     
  19. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    In California, there's no such thing as specials.

    Any intervention my kids get is either with me during class time, during a half hour teaming and regrouping block where students are reshuffled according to their reading fluency or English language proficiency or in an after school intervention class three days a week provided there's room and their parents let them come.

    With first grade, the lowest kids get in the after school intervention. I'm not sure with the upper grades. I also know that Read 180 kids are picked from the lowest as well.

    Now as far as instructional time and other subjects, Mark is pointing out what may very well be a problem unique to California and a few other states.

    About 10 years ago, they started mandating the amount of time teachers spend on language arts. We were told we were to teach all components of the Open Court program exactly according to the manual. In Open Court training, we had learned that mean up to 4 and a half hours depending on the lesson! Two years ago they also mandated the amount of time we were to spend on math.

    To make sure we understood, they also issued an "Instructional Minutes" schedule for each grade level. For first through third grades, every single minute - from the tardy bell to dismissal - was to be spent on language arts or math. No art. No PE. No science. No social studies. No music. Not really any time even for kids to get their backpacks and put away their books before they go home.

    This schedule is still in place, although they have tweaked it a bit to allow the last half hour if the day to be for social studies or science and given us a little bit if flexibility so we can tailor to the needs of our students.
     
  20. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Wow Sarge! I think I understand this a little more. My state definitely has gone that far yet! Hopefully we won't....
     
  21. luckyal29

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    If there's no science or history sounds like its been designated PI school which I worked at in the past. At the school, there was indeed a push on 'focal' students.

    Just because there is an emphasis on focal students doesn't mean the below basic students aren't receiving instruction. Realistically, the one hour spent on helping 3 focal students is more efficient than helping 1 FBB. Thinking back on it, the FBB still received 1 on 1 primary language support and my other FBB received Resource support.

    For the record, contrary to Sarge, I'm in CA and we have specials and don't use Open Court.
     
  22. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    I couldn't agree with you more. The end does not justify the means. It would be one thing if extra time and money was being spent to help particular students more because they needed more motivation, more push, and more emotional support/nurturing or just extra academic practice in order to become successful students. (And the other students were already self-sufficient and motivated)

    However, if the only reason for the labels and extra focus is just to boost up numbers to satisfy the state's data requirements with no concern about who the child is as a person and as a learner....then that is just wrong to me regardless of the AYP, NCLB rules.

    Children have been completely reduced to numbers as if they are manufactured products. So sad. Where's the humanism to teaching? I thought that was the cornerstone of the profession, but I thought wrong. If numbers were my one and only motivation I'd be an accountant or marketing sales associate.

    If I pour my heart, soul, and extra time into helping a child, I (and I would hope my teammates and admins) prefer to be motivated because of our support and love for that child, not to please the state's lifeless data binders. Wow, so sad.
     
  23. Securis

    Securis Cohort

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    Wanna hear a funny? I've been making super-sized bar charts to offer my principal and her leadership team easy to see graphics on who our 'bubble students' are.
     
  24. Securis

    Securis Cohort

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    Does that make me a pun?
     
  25. tortega

    tortega Rookie

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    Why do we put up with this? Why do we conform to teaching methods that we know are not in the best interest of our students? Is the fear of losing our job what motivates us to conform? Do we feel we can't step out without the support we should be getting form the administration? As someone who has only had part time and temporary work for the last 3 years (at least California is sunny) I know that if I was able to get a classroom for next year I would be terrified to rock the boat. How about you? If you work in one of these districts who spend more time crunching numbers then teaching children what holds you back form taking those curriculum guides with their 4 hr time blocks for english language arts and one size fits all testing methods and use it to make paper mache' social studies projects?
     
  26. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    It is fear of losing jobs as well as no support from administration.
     
  27. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    That's a big sweeping statement. There are plenty of teachers who are data driven and crunch numbers and do what's good for kids. Just because something comes from the state or is mandated doesn't mean people are conforming.
     
  28. Mark94544

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    tortega wrote: > "Why do we put up with this? Why do we conform to teaching methods that we know are not in the best interest of our students? Is the fear of losing our job what motivates us to conform? ... [Why not use all the misguided program materials] to make paper mache' social studies projects?" <

    Kat53 responded: > "That's a big sweeping statement.There are plenty of teachers who are data driven and crunch numbers and do what's good for kids. Just because something comes from the state or is mandated doesn't mean people are conforming. Just because something comes from the state or is mandated doesn't mean people are conforming." <

    First, I think it is fear of losing jobs that motivates many teachers to comply with curriculum decisions that they think are misguided or wrong. New teachers are especially vulnerable (in states that have something like "tenure"), but surely most teachers will be "rated" for compliance (in addition to being rated based on students' test scores), and there's pressure to impose consequences based on these ratings. And in the current economy, with the prospect of teacher layoffs in many states, the threat of losing your job because you stood (and taught) according to your principles is very real.

    Many teachers who appear (at school or district meetings) to be "happy camper" conformists, might be "showing" compliant lesson plans, but teaching quite differently, except on observation days. Is it "unethical" to conceal your disagreement and nonconformance, if you believe that doing so is in the best interests of your students? Flip the question: if you publicly announce that you won't follow the curriculum or methods that are "imposed" on you, wouldn't that provoke attention that would impair your ability to teach in a way that best serves your students? I've known some great teachers who quietly follow their own teaching strategies, year after year, while nodding at the meetings where each new cycle of "fad" teaching strategies are imposed. I've also known some awful teachers who did the same thing.

    And certainly, many teachers may honestly agree with many of the curriculum decisions that have been made, especially for specific groups of students. (One common complaint I've heard is that "programs" which were designed for "far-below-grade-level" or "English Language Learners," whose might truly have benefited from the program, are being adopted and imposed on all students, despite the absence of any proof that these programs will benefit students in very different circumstances. If you teach the students for whom the program was designed, you certainly might believe that the program is in your students' best interests. Even if you don't, you might still honestly believe that the program will help your students.)

    Would I love to see hundreds of thousands of teachers take a stand, and publicly refuse to conform with absurd practices, even if it means losing their jobs? Sure. Would this serve the best interests of their students? Only if it "worked." Would that result in any genuine change? Maybe -- but probably not.

    Teachers who strongly believe that the curriculum or strategies that are being imposed on them are not helpful to students -- and who nevertheless comply by "following instructions" -- may earn my sympathy and perhaps even my understanding, but not my respect.
     
  29. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    When I tutored at a middle school, the P specifically said we were targeting kids who were in the middle. He wanted to focus on those kids to raise their test scores. The lows were just out. :(
     
  30. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I have said many times before that this is one reason I am glad I am teaching internationally. We don't have to deal with all that crud. Yes, we do have standardized testing, but it is just to compare the schools, and it doesn't dictate anything (not yet, anyway-hopefully it never will).
     
  31. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    I agree with many of your points. But, my point is that not everything that is mandated is bad, and I don't think teachers should have total curriculur freedom to do what they want. Case in point, I worked with a teacher who spend an entire reading period teaching her kids how to juggle. This was a high-risk, Title 1 school, with high ELL's. This wasn't a one time even, but happened many, many times. A set curriculum and structures were good for her. I have many more examples like this. There needs to be a balance between school-wide structures and individual classroom decisions.
    I have worked for absolutely wonderful administration and absolutely HORRID administration, so I've seen both sides of the issue. But as educators I don't think we need to jump the gun that everything that is mandated is bad. In regards to the "bubble kids" situation, I still don't think its absolutely horrible and I see the point, but I do have some reservations.
     
  32. Mark94544

    Mark94544 Companion

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    I agree, and I doubt anyone would disagree with this concept.

    The critical problem is how to strike that balance.

    Teachers are active participants in a hierarchical community, who must adapt and apply their skills to best meet the needs of that community.

    But teachers are also professionals, with a duty to apply their knowledge and experience, not to simply "comply and conform."

    A good test for uncertain teachers: if your teaching practices were challenged, would your defense sound like, "I am just following orders," or would it be more substantive?
     
  33. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    It would be a mixture of both. There have been certain circumstances where I've made an educated argument with my former princpal, and he's seen my side. And there have been times where he has made an educated argument, and I've either seen his side, or disagreed and still went along with the school structure. In working with different principals and district administrators, I respect the fact that they have a job to do and there have been countless factors that were unseen by me. But it was also a give and take, and I built a reputation that I was respected enough to have my voice heard, but I also respected the fact that I had a boss and he was in charge. I think if you continually buck the system over every little thing, your voice isn't as likely to be heard, or respected.
    Sometimes, it's not all about what I think, but there are people around me who also have the best interests of kids, even if we don't see eye to eye on everything.
    My pet peeve is having to give trainings that I think are stupid, or are a time filler and a waste of peoples time. I do it because it's not that big of a deal in the grand sceme of things, and I respect how utterly and completely hard a Principals job is. And they have to go through this kind of thing everyday.
     
  34. Kat53

    Kat53 Devotee

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    Mark-I sent you a PM.
     
  35. Pisces_Fish

    Pisces_Fish Fanatic

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    Yes, there is a bit of a push at my current school to focus on bubble students, but even more so at my last school. It was so stupid. Three times a week my principal hired a sub for one of the 5th grade teachers to cover her class. She would then pull about 25 kids and take them to an empty classroom to cover test-taking skills, at the expense of those kids missing actual instructional time in their normal class. I hated it!!
     
  36. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Missing reading and math instruction to teach test taking skills... These kids are already behind, they don't need to miss extra instruction three times a week!
     
  37. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    <<But teachers are also professionals, with a duty to apply their knowledge and experience, not to simply "comply and conform." >>

    And above that we are public servants hired to perform the the duties laid out for us by elected officials. If the public is unhappy vote in new leadership.
     
  38. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 3, 2011

    Is the public really unhappy...or is it just us teachers.
     

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