Monday, January 26, 2015

Research on Grade-span Configuration

The following is a short research paper on some of the anticipated effects of a transition to narrow grade buildings may have. It was written by Shippensburg University education professor Phillip Diller during the community discussion in 2006 about the proposed realignment of the Shippensburg School District. My biggest concerns are highlighted in yellow--I'm afraid that the bigger schools will negatively affect community building at each center, and am concerned that the many transitions will be hard for our most vulnerable. I'm interested to hear if the Shippensburg School District has more recent research that supports their interest in school realignment. Or not.

Re: Research on Grade-span Configuration

Phillip Diller, Ed.D.
Shippensburg University

There were two assertions in a memo sent to Luhrs families in May, 2006: “research indicates that maintaining a wider range of grade levels in school buildings has positive benefits on student achievement” and “family involvement appears to be more extensive in schools with wider grade spans than in schools with narrow grade spans.” In response to challenges to these statements, this brief provides the supporting evidence.

The first assertion, that wider grade span has a positive effect on student achievement, is supported in part by research on K-8 school configurations.  Early indication that the wider grade span might positively benefit achievement came from studies done in rural Maine.  Wihry, Coladarci, and Meadow (1992) used data from an annual standardized test, the Maine Educational Assessment, to measure the influence of grade span on the academic achievement of eighth-graders. After analyzing the scores of eighth-graders in schools with different grade configurations, the researchers concluded that eighth-graders learning in elementary settings (K-8, K-9, and 3-8) outperformed eighth-graders in schools with other grade configurations.

Lee & Smith (1993) found that 8th grade students in schools that contained a wider grade span with fewer students per grade had higher achievement than did those who attended more narrowly-configured schools.

Tucker and Andrada (1997) compared achievement data from Connecticut 6th graders who were in their last year of elementary (K-6) school to that of sixth-graders who had attended K-5 schools.  The results indicated that in all subject areas the performance of sixth-grade students at the K-6 schools was better than the performance of sixth-grade students from K-5 schools.

Between the 1999 and 2002, 21 Cleveland schools were reconfigured or were in the process of being reconfigured to accommodate kindergarten through 8th grade. The results were significant, with 6th graders in K-8 schools posting better attendance and higher standardized test scores than their peers in middle school. (Pardini, 2002)

Closer to home, Viadero (2006) describes an evaluation of math achievement among Philadelphia 5th – 8th graders. The study, using data from 2003- 2005, found higher achievement in K-8 schools than in middle schools with similar demographics.

Gao and Alspaugh (2001), investigating the relationship between grade-span configuration and achievement rates in Missouri schools found that students attending middle schools experienced a greater achievement loss in the transition to high school than did the students making the transition from a K-8 elementary school. The experience of making a previous transition did not mitigate the achievement loss during the transition to high school.

Alspaugh (1999) also found a possible relationship between the number of school-to-school transitions and high school dropout rates.

Alspaugh’s studies raise an important issue about the cumulative effects of school transitions. Creating more narrowly configured schools in a system increases the number of transitions students must experience during their K-12 careers. Craig Howley (2002), director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools states,

Every transition from one narrowly configured school to another seems to disrupt the social structure in which learning takes place, lowering achievement and participation for many students. Predictably, this damage will be most severe in the cases of students from impoverished backgrounds.

The second assertion from the memo to GBLUES parents – “family involvement appears to be more extensive in schools with wider grade spans than in schools with narrow grade spans” – is also supported by a review of grade-span literature.

Gewertz (2004) reports that school districts across the country, “building on a small body of research and a growing body of anecdotal evidence”, are moving to smaller schools with a wider grade span. One of the benefits cited by school district leaders in New York City, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Philadelphia is an increase in parental involvement when moving to K-8 schools. Moffitt (1996) studied the impact of a district’s elementary grade span structure on family-school partnerships and concluded that schools with narrow grade configurations have a negative impact on family-school partnerships.  Following this line of inquiry, Paglin and Fager (1997) found that narrow grade spans cause frequent student turnover and negatively influence the school’s sense of community. As Renschler (2000) summarized, schools with very narrow grade spans experience frequent student turnover, which can influence the school’s identity and sense of community.

Colorado Commissioner of Education William Moloney (Sanko, 1998) suggested it was time to revisit the concept of elementary schools that teach kindergarten through eighth grade.

“Historically, it's what America was… It really comes down to the things that parents value most - intimacy, the basics, control. Stop and think. It's common sense. If your child is known by every single teacher in the building, if you have a relationship of nine years duration, if you have that kind of focus and intensity, is that not better than when your children are sent to a more distant school with larger numbers?''

Howley (2004), a scholar of rural education, summarizes the research on grade span:

We obviously need additional research on grade span configuration. Existing evidence, however, challenges the de facto policies of 'massification' (always making larger schools and districts as the opportunities arise) and 'developmentally appropriate leveling' (separate schools for primary, elementary, middle, and secondary students).

Howley et al. (2000, 2004) see no particular evidence in the literature to definitively demonstrate that any particular grade-span is better or worse than another.  However, they do find an important link between the literature on grade-span and the literature on school size and student achievement, particularly for lower-income children. Considering school data from four states, they found smaller schools cut the variance in achievement associated with SES by 30-50 percent, depending on grade level. In a similar study, Alspaugh and Gao (2003), comparing Missouri school districts, found a significant decline in student achievement as school enrollments increased, for both inner-city and suburban schools.

Howley (2004) describes his conclusions:

Imagine a district with three school buildings: a K-2 primary center, 3-5 elementary, and a 6-8 middle school or junior high school, each with 300 children. These schools are, in fact, large, with 100 kids per grade (each compares to a K-8 with 900 kids). If, however, the same three buildings were used instead for three K-8 schools, the schools would be a lot smaller-33 kids per grade level. And the reconfiguration would have eliminated two transitions. According to the theory, this change would be predicted to have a good effect on the level and equity of achievement. But the work done by Bickel and me on school size suggests that if this change took place in an impoverished district, we'd predict (not guarantee) additional improvements to the overall achievement level.

Though now almost a decade old, the work of Paglin and Fager (1997) is still widely cited as providing the definitive list of questions that districts should seek to answer when considering grade-span reconfiguration.  These nine questions are:

  1. What will be the cost and length of student travel, particularly in a school district that covers a large area?
  2. Will the distance to the school and the number of schools a family's children attend possibly increase or decrease parent involvement? 
  3. What will be the number of students at each grade level and how may that number affect class groupings and curriculum?
  4. What will be the effect of grade-span on achievement, particularly for grades 6-9?
  5. Will neighborhood schools close or remain open?
  6.  How many school transitions will students make?
  7.  How will opportunities for interaction between age groups be provided?
  8.  How will reconfiguration affect the influence of older students on younger students?
  9.  Is building design suitable for the proposed grade levels?

In summary, it appears that the two assertions in the memo to Luhrs parents are supported by the literature. Achievement does seem to positively correlate with wider grade span, and long-term relationships with families do seem to correlate with higher student achievement. Though some of the conclusions may be generalized from research on middle-level students, such generalization is neither uncommon nor inappropriate.  Further research in this area appears to be on-going and inconclusive (see e.g. Viadero, 2006).

However, just as there is little conclusive research on negative effects of realignment, the evidence that realignment improves learning for children also appears to be largely anecdotal, and not research-based. Absent answers from research, as Paglin and Fager (1997) found in the districts they studied, only the time-consuming work of arriving at satisfactory local answers to critical questions helps to ensure satisfactory local decisions.


Alspaugh, J. W. & Harting, R. D. (1995) Transition effects of school grade-level organization on student achievement. Journal of Research and Development in Education 28(3) 145-149

Alspaugh, J. (1999). The interaction effect of transition grade to high school with gender and grade level upon dropout rates. Paper prepared for the American Educational Research Association. (ED 431066). Downloaded June 1, 2006, from

Alspaugh, J., & Gao, R. (2003). School size as a factor in elementary school achievement.  (ED475062).  Downloaded June 1, 2006, from

Gao, R., & Alspaugh, John W. (2001). The effects of grade level, gender and ethnic background associated with middle school discipline problems and academic achievement. Research in Middle Level Education Quarterly, 24, 35-46.

Gewertz, C. (2004). City districts embracing K-8 schools. May 19, 2004.  Downloaded June 1, 2006 from

Howley, C., Strange, M. & Bickel, R. (2000). Research about school size and school performance in impoverished communities. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools. ED448968.  Downloaded June 1, 2006, from EBSCO Host.

Howley, C. (2002). Grade-span configurations. The School Administrator. March.  Downloaded June 1, 2006, from

Howley, C. (2004). Grade span configurations and reconfigurations: With rural dilemmas in mind. Document available at  Downloaded June 1, 2006.

Lee, V. E. & Smith, J. B. (1993). Effects of school restructuring on the achievement and engagement of middle-grade students. Sociology of Education, 66, 164-187.

Moffitt, T.L..1996). An evaluative study of the impact of elementary grade span structure on family-school partnerships.  Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

Sanko, J. (1998). Quit building middle schools? Top education official floats idea to legislators.  Rocky Mountain News, December 10, 1998.  Downloaded June 1, 2006 from

Tucker, Charlene G., and Andrada, Gilbert N. (1997). Accountability works: Analysis of performance by grade span of school. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL. (ED 411 278). Downloaded June 1, 2006, from

Pardini, P. (2002).  Revival of the K-8 school.  School Administrator v59 n3 p6-12 Mar 2002. Downloaded June1, 1006, from

Paglin, C., & Fager, J. (1997).  Grade configuration: Who goes where? By Request: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory Hot Topic. July.  Downloaded June 1, 2006, from

Renschler, R (2000). Grade span. Clearinghouse on Educational Policy and Management. Downloaded June 1, 2006 from

Viadero, D. (2006). K-8 structure gives no academic boost, analysis finds., March 1.  Downloaded June 1, 2006 from,+2006&levelId=1000.

Wihry, D., Coladarci, T. and Meadow, C.(1999). Grade span and eighth-grade academic achievement: Evidence from a predominantly rural state. Journal of Research in Rural Education 8, 2: 58—70. (EJ 464 589). Downloaded June 1, 2006, from

Friday, September 26, 2014

World Mesothelioma Awareness Day

Today, September 26th, is the 10th annual World Mesothelioma Awareness Day. I was approached by Heather Von St. James, who came across the health writing on my blog (ah, the good fun of complicated medical lives) and asked me to write a piece to help spread awareness and eventually eradicate this terrible disease. Heather wrote, 
Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with mesothelioma; a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. I had just given birth to my daughter, Lily, and was only given 15 months to live. After a life saving surgery that included the removal of my left lung, I’m thriving more than ever.
Since I’m one of a few survivors, my family has made it our lives mission to spread awareness of mesothelioma: a PREVENTABLE disease that takes so many innocent lives. In honor of the 10th annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day (September 26) we are asking bloggers to help us spread the word by dedicating a blog post to share some eye opening facts and statistics you didn't know about mesothelioma.”
So, like most Information Age researchers, I started with a Google search. Then checked back to Heather’s email to make sure I spelled it right. The asbestos cancer? In someone my age? Yup. My only previous acquaintance with mesothelioma was Sal, a man in his sixties I met on my mission in Texas who had worked with asbestos in the merchant marines. I have mentally put asbestos-related disease as kind of a thing of the past. Asbestos is only in old buildings, right? But worldwide mesothelioma cases are expected to reach their peak around the year 2020, because although the peak asbestos production use is in the past, mesothelioma commonly sits dormant in the body for 20-50 years after initial exposure.
Mesothelioma incidence in women is on the rise because many women experienced second hand exposure. Because they were often children at the time of their exposure, these are young women. Heather’s exposure came from a cozy habit—she loved to wear her beloved father’s jacket when she went outside to play. Her father was a construction worker. And the white dust covering his jacket was asbestos.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral whose fine particles are inhaled and rest in the lungs. Although it was banned by the EPA in 1989, that ban was overturned in 1991, and asbestos continues to be used, especially internationally. Between 2,500 and 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year, and on average, patients are given 10 months to live. Heather, as one of only a few survivors, has made it her cause to spread the word, hope, and a plea for more research so her story is less of a rare one.

If you suspect you’ve had second hand asbestos exposure in your childhood, and start having any respiratory symptoms, please consult with your doctor.
more info: (a sweet short video about Heather's story, and an information-packed site)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Fanconi Fun

 Reuben yesterday with my birthday "cupcake on ice cream!"
I wrote this rather slapdash report last week for my Coursera Chemistry mini research paper. If you've been interested in Reuben's kidney disease, well, THIS TREAT IS FOR YOU.
My five year old son Reuben has Fanconi syndrome, diagnosed during a period of poor growth after chemotherapy treatment for a synovial sarcoma in his right shoulder. Fanconi syndrome is a kidney disorder caused by damage to the proximal tubules in the kidney, in his case from therapeutic use of the drug ifosfamide [2,3]. The result is a diminished reabsorption of solutes by the proximal tubule. Clinical manifestations of this disorder can be more complex, depending on the biological cause of the tubule damage, but in Reuben's case his symptoms and management are limited to nutritional electrolyte levels and prevention of acidosis. [1,2]

Reuben was promptly treated with heavy supplementation of electrolytes and bicarbonate, and avoided the side effects (rickets from phosphorus and vitamin D deficiency is one concern) that could be caused by nutritional deficiency of essential electrolytes [3]. This treatment has continued for four years. More advanced biochemistry can be applied to the mechanisms of his renal tubules and the biological effects of these electrolytes, but I will limit this brief discussion to inorganic chemistry. As we learned about electrolytic reactions and precipitates in Week 4, I immediately thought of the precipitates I have observed in Reuben's urine. "Tell your doctor about cloudy urine" urge parenting articles, so I asked his nephrologist, who has assured me (from theoretical knowledge and the urinalysis done regularly) that the cloudiness in the toilet bowl, what I saw crystalized at the bottom of his wee toilet during potty training, and the residue I sometimes observe in his underwear is expected. I'm seeing a solid result of most of  the electrolyte solution I deliver three times daily orally, processed inefficiently by his damaged kidneys ("It's chemistry in action!" I told my physician and biologist siblings. Our inner chemistry geeks were very excited). This paper--and the refreshing of my 20-year-dormant inorganic chemistry skills with this class--gives me the opportunity to make a prediction exactly what the precipitates are.

I theoretically know that Reuben likely has excessive urination of many solutes, including glucose, amino acids, calcium, phosphate, uric acid, bicarbonate and many organic compounds [3]. I can reasonably conclude, however, that he is excreting most what he receives most of. His daily oral supplementation regimen gives him the following, which represents a massive excess of what his little 43 pound body uses: 

*30 mL of CYTRA-2, a formulation that includes sodium citrate and citric acid in a neutralizing buffer. For the purposes of this paper, I'm going to ignore the inactive ingredients, and just consider the stated concentrations in 5 mL aqueous solution: 500 mg Sodium Citrate Dihydrate and 334 mg Citric Acid Monohydrate. The label states that each mL contains 1 mEq Sodium Ion and is equivalent to 1 mEq Bicarbonate (HCO3) [4].

*1 1/2 packets of PHOS-NaK, a powdered concentrate. Each packet contains (again, just the active ingredients) 160 mg sodium, 280 mg potassium, and 250 mg phosphorus in the form of potassium phosphate and sodium phosphate.


part 1: the ions
From CYTRA-2: Na+, HCO3 -2  (the sodium citrate and citric acid in the CYTRA-2 are converted to bicarbonate by the liver [7]).
From Phos-NaK: K+, Na+, PO4 -3 (phosphorus is transported and processed in the intestine, kidneys, and urine in phosphate form [8]).
Resultant cations: Na+,  K+
Resultant anions: HCO3 -2, PO4 -3

part 2: the precipitates 
I expected to discover in this step that one of the resultant ionic compounds was insoluble, and that would be the precipitate that I observe, but according to solubility rule #1, "Most compounds of Group 1 metal cations are soluble." Because both of the supplemental cations are Group 1 metals, I can expect that the possible compounds of the ions listed above would be primarily in solution. The precipitate I observe must therefore be the result of an already fully saturated aqueous solution in Reuben's urine. I predict the following possible electrolyte salts in excess: Na2HCO3, K2HCO3, Na3PO4, K3PO4 (sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, sodium phosphate, and potassium phosphate).

If this chapter of my education extends to a laboratory portion of my chemistry review, I may, in the future, be able to test the accuracy of the predictions made by my chemical figuring above. I could do further research on the way the digestive system uses and transforms elements and their ions to be more accurate in my chemical predictions, but the above exercise was interesting, and appropriate at my current chemistry knowledge level. "Fanconi syndrome" describes a class of disorders whose variable symptoms depend on the cause and extent of the proximal tubule damage [2]. I would like to know exactly what Reuben's body disposes of, and how this changes as his body and metabolic needs grow. More specific research could still be done on the chemistry of affected patients' urine and blood to see exactly the sort of damage done to a 6 month old child with high doses of ifosfamide (it was reported as early as 1974 [3,6]), but I hope that the incidence of cases remain low enough that such studies cannot be categorically conclusive, particularly at stages of early development, such as my 6-month old baby. 

Sources cited:
1. "Fanconi Syndrome." Author: Sahar Fathallah-Shaykh, MD; Chief Editor: Craig B Langman, MD. Accessed on web at
2. Discussions with the subject's mother and nephrologists.
3. " Ifosfamide induced Fanconi syndrome." Samantha Buttemer, Mohan Pai2 and Keith K Lau. BMJ Case Rep. 2011; 2011.  Accessed on web at
4. Label for Cypress Pharmaceutical, Inc.'s CYTRA-2 oral solution.
5. Label for Cypress Pharmaceutical, Inc.'s PHOS-NaK powder concentrate supplements.
6. "Renal dysfunction after treatment with isophosphamide." DeFronzo RA, Abeloff M, Braine H, Humphrey RL, Davis PJ. Cancer Chemother Rep. 1974 May-Jun;58(3):375-82. Accessed on web at
7. "Urinary Alkalization" by David S Goldfarb, M.D.(Director, Kidney Stone Prevention Program, St. Vincents Hospital & Professor of Medicine and Physiology, NYU School of Medicine). Accessed on web at
8. "Potassium Phosphate/Pharmacology." Accessed on the web at

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Educational Trip

Self + sibs: a blurry attempt to recreate a favorite 2002 photo, the last time we were all together for my mom's 60th a couple of years ago

Today's morning task: Educational Trip Form Request for both daughters, seeking excused absence status when missing school around Easter for a trip to join this bunch, my mom (Grandma Donna the Grand Madonna), plus so many spouses and kids.

"Please write a short summary of the educational value of the planned trip"

I'm not going to try to make a case for the April entertainment pursuits in Orlando being essential to my girls' education, but I firmly believe that the company is. This is the first biannual reunion of my family of origin, seven siblings and their mum spread between seven states, so also my kids' only chance to spend time with, appreciated and loved and taught by their best educational mentors. We'll have fourteen bachelor's degrees, two master's, and four doctorates, with one just starting medical school and another three years into an evolutionary biostatistics entomology PhD program. There will be three professors, two practicing physicians, one scrupulous dentist, and a successful entrepreneur in our little group, all people (along with the also brilliant rest) with senses of wonder to match their senses of humor, a week-long interactive lesson on how education makes minds sharp, parenting fuller, and lives better. Value indeed!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

a love story

A year and a half since I've posted on this neglected blog! This story, too long for the replacement Facebook, needed to be told.

Thursday night before bookclub, Goat and I attended the funeral of Evelyn Gilmartin, a member of our church. Neither of us had interacted past the "good morning" level with Sister Gilmartin, whose poor health often kept her home, but we went in support of her widower, Frankie, an iconic presence every Sunday.  Frankie passes out the programs, reaches past three or four people to adjust your hymnal if you put it away "wrong" (it's firm tradition in our particular congregation--something I've never seen before--that hymnals must be put in place spine down; they're even stamped "this side up" along the outer margin), and is always prompt with his after-meeting task of wheeling in the chalkboard for the Sunday School class that meets in the chapel after our main devotional services. Frankie will need the support of his church without Evelyn. She was quiet but bright, efficient with her church calling (sending the women's organization e-newsletter), and definitely took care of the adult world for their household. Frankie, officious but kind, has the mind of a child. He's difficult to understand, and will not be able to live on his own without her. Their marriage was a happy mystery to us.

The glowing spot in the simple service was their love story. When we arrived and stopped to sign the guest book, Evelyn's sister Jessie was setting out a few items to represent her sister--the bracelets she enjoyed making, a small sampling of her proudly complete Dark Shadows collection, family photos, and a plain black-and-white dollar store composition book. "She wrote the things she wasn't able to say." Jessie's husband gave the eulogy, with both his words and a written memorial from his wife, who was feeling too emotional to speak. He explained that the Gilmartins' marriage was Evelyn's third. Her first husband was physically abusive, and her second "had plenty of issues of his own." When she met Frankie while living for a time with a friend in Florida, she was in another abusive relationship, which he, entranced by Evelyn, stepped into. Frankie spent half of his few words at the service describing their beginning: "I said to him, 'If you want to hit her, you're going to have to get past ME FIRST.'" Jessie said of Frankie, "He treated her like a queen." 

Jessie asked Mary Ellen Moore, a friend of Evelyn, to read a poem from that composition book I saw on entrance. It is titled simply "To Frankie", and was written four years ago. He had never heard it.

Thank you for being a part of my life;
for being my partner and friend;
for sharing my life, the good and the bad,
through all of the thick and thin.
Thank you for being my anchor,
for your shoulder whenever I cried;
for being that one special someone,
in whom I can always confide,
for staying when I'm at my worst, 
and praising when I'm at my best;
for listening quietly to me,
when I have things to get off of my chest.
Thank you for not criticizing, 
or pointing out all of my flaws;
for being supportive and caring, 
and loving me just because.
Thank you for not ever hitting, 
but helping wherever you can;
and when I am struggling and falling,
for offering me your hand.
For being my strength and my guidepost,
my joy and the love of my life;
Thank you for all that you've given, 
and especially for making me your wife.
For all that you are, for all that you give,
for all you have helped me to be;
for all of the people to choose from,
I thank you for choosing me.
I love you my darling Frankie,
you're my heart, my soul and my life.
In all of the things I could have done,
I'm proudest that I am your wife.
I love you!

My favorite moment of the evening was watching Frankie mouth clearly to his sister-in-law, sitting closely and protectively nearby, "She wrote that for ME?" A breathtaking gift for a heartbroken new widower.

The Gilmartins' kindness to each other continued for the rest of their twenty-year marriage. A dear friend's marriage hit a move-out-and-begin-again crisis this week, which has led me to think a lot about my own. My marriage moanings are usually of the "we don't have the same goals" variety [fear not, reader: we mostly do, veering sharply at leisure time activities]. Frankie and Evelyn's love story is a beautiful example of the right marriage goals: unfailing support, the audacity of love in the face of difference, and the eminence of kindness in every relationship. May we all be so lucky and so wise.

 A memorial with a beautiful lesson--please share it in honor of Evelyn and Frankie Gilmartin and L-O-V-E (it's still February, after all!)

A happy portrait of Frankie and Evelyn Gilmartin. The photo to the right is on their sealing day in the Washington, D.C. temple.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

For Susan

Proud to be a supporter of Susan Spicka, who ran for state representative from the 89th district after frustration with wide state funding cuts for education. She definitely made her (our) voice heard, and gave Rob Kauffman a run for his money! Though the bid was unsuccessful, she carried our county, and was closer. than most challengers to incumbents this year. I'm sure we'll continue to hear from her and benefit from her advocacy. Great thanks to her while family and campaign.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

favorite hand sewing tutorials

I've been a fan of hand sewing for years, and I firmly believe that with just a couple of stitches you can hack your way through anything and it will turn out sweet.  Having said that, the following tutorials are excellent ones, with hints for even experienced stitchers. 

For a perfect little whip stitch on your felt goodies, this is THE tutorial:

By the same brill crafter, here's an exhaustive, step-by-step tutorial for blanket stitch, including hints for starting, stopping, turning corners, and working round objects.  So good!

As advised by her (and everybody else), here's "the knot trick".  Yes, a knot is a knot, but you feel very smart when you do this, and can perfectly control the knot size & placement.  Very detailed tutorial for a knot that takes 2 seconds.

Darling little printable origami book with six essential stitches.  Developed by Cassi Griffin of The Crafty Crow for Sew, Mama, Sew!(I recommend them both, by the way!)

Sewing up the space-left-to-invert-and-stuff:  hidden stitch aka ladder stitch aka blind stitch, illustrated:

Any other suggestions?
Comment & add!