Roundup II

A recent analysis of the world’s top education systems by McKinsey & Company concluded, “Of all the controllable factors influencing student achievement, the most important by far is the influence of the classroom teacher.” The study also finds that more than 30 percent of new teachers leave the profession after five years. The U.S. is heading toward a teacher shortage, because there are fewer teachers to fill slots as baby boomers reach retirement age.

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Comcast has created an “Internet Essentials” program that offers home Internet service for $9.95 a month, low-cost computers ($149.99) and support classes. The program is being offered to families whose children qualify for the National School Lunch Program. Information for families about this program (endorsed by the American Association of School Administrators) is available at:

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Speaking of technology to support schoolwork, Learning Ally is a great resource if your child needs access to audio versions of textbooks or reading materials. Learning Ally ( serves more than 300,000 K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners who can’t read standard print due to visual impairment, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. Their collection of more than 65,000 digitally recorded textbooks and literature titles – downloadable and accessible on mainstream as well as specialized-assistive technology devices – is the largest of its kind in the world.

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I guarantee that the next time you are at a dinner party and the topic turns to education, someone is going to bring up Khan Academy. If you haven’t checked it out yet, take a second now to go to This nonprofit resource offers more than 2,400 videos covering every possible K-12 academic subject. Their mission: “We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.”

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The buzz continues about Paul Tough and is you don’t have time to read his book, his theories are well summarized in the New York Times article, “What if the Secret to Success is Failure.” Tough contends that character is a far greater measure of future success than test scores. In particular, he cites: grit, zest, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity as better measure of success. I think he is right, but can you teach “grit” or are you just born with it or without it?

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Another hot topic recent article in the The Economist ( contends that after a global examination of education practices, good schooling isn’t about spending money on education: “Though there is no one template, four important themes emerge: decentralization (handing power back to schools); a focus on underachieving pupils; a choice of different sorts of schools; and high standards for teachers.”

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I have heard good things about the SEA program in Woods Hole, Mass., 17-day resident program studying marine science and nautical science, onshore and aboard a 134-foot research sailing vessel in the Atlantic. Days include three-hour marine science classes and labs. One of the best parts is bonding with the 25 other like-minded students and watching the sunrise aboard the ship, as they crewed the early a.m. watch.” This program is pricey but financial aid is available.

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There is a great program in International Diplomacy held at American University in Washington, D.C., every July. Sponsored by the National Student Leadership Conference (, the program choices include engineering, education, entrepreneurship, forensic science, journalism, law and more, ranging from eight to 13 days at a cost of around $1,700-$2,500 (though scholarships are available). There are about 100 students – about 30 percent from overseas – a busy schedule of classes, lectures and visits from State Department dignitaries, an overnight trip to the United Nations and visits to the State Department and various embassies.

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While all rankings should be taken with a grain of salt, the George Bush Presidential Center has just released an interactive “Global Report Card” which attempts to rank every school district in the world by common metrics so you can see how a particular district stacks up against others nearby, in the state, in the United States and around the world. ( But you can’t be sure they are comparing apples to apples, particularly with schools overseas.

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The National Academy of Sciences has kicked off a multi-state campaign to increase the emphasis on analytical and conceptual thinking in science instruction. California is one of 20 states that will help write new science standards that determine what is taught in K-12 schools across the country. The new standards will encourage students to examine concepts that cross the boundaries of physics, biology and chemistry, according to the nonpartisan/nonprofit organization that is coordinating the effort. There will also be a greater emphasis on engineering. In Sonoma, our K-5 schools received a prestigious federal Investing in Innovations grant in 2010 (out of 1,700 applications, Sonoma was one of only 49 applicants to have received the award). The focus of the exploratorium grant is to emphasize analytical and conceptual thinking so the district here already has this type of change well on their radar. I’ll be keeping on eye on how national science curriculum changes will affect Sonoma students and will keep you informed.

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I just started “The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School” by Alexandra Robbins. It is a very interesting (and quick reading) look at the psychology and science behind popularity and “outcasthood.” I recommend it to anyone who works with teenagers, has a teenager or ever was a teenager.

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Speaking of books, if you have a child who loves to cook but hates studying vocabulary lists, check out “Cook Your Way Through the S.A.T.” Charis Frieman-Mendel, a 14-year-old in Newport, R.I., got the idea to create her own cookbook by combining her love of cooking with the need to fulfill an art requirement and study for the SSAT – the Secondary School Admission Test, which resembles the SAT and is used for admissions into independent junior high and high schools. She developed 99 recipes into which she incorporated 1,000 SAT vocabulary words. Pretty creative idea. You can get it online for $14.99: or at

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Teenagers, teenagers, teenagers … a recent issue of National Geographic has a story titled, “Beautiful Brains: Why Do Teenagers Act The Way They Do” which discusses the science behind teenage behavior and brain development. It is an interesting read:

2 responses

  1. Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok.
    I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

    1. Thanks! @svcollegetips

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