Roundup V

Is your teen causing you to tear your hair out? A friend has recommended the book “Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers,” by Michael Riera. It is widely thought to be the best book out there on communicating with teens on such topics as alcohol, drugs and parties; academics; sex; eating disorders; homosexuality; and divorce. I enjoyed what one reviewer on Amazon had to say: “This book reassured me that my child wasn’t abnormal, that I was right in being confused and sometimes appalled by their behavior. And it let me take a step back and not take it so personally.” Some of Riera’s other books sound interesting as well: “Right From Wrong: Instilling A Sense Of Integrity In Your Child,” “Field Guide To The American Teenager: A Parent’s Companion” and “Surviving High School: Making the Most of the High School Years.”

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A new report from a research group at UCLA finds that colleges can project their graduation rates by analyzing the race, ethnicity, gender, GPA, and SAT/ACT scores of their freshman class. Sadly, the study also found that having divorced parents, having a demanding job in high school and being first to attend college make a student less likely to complete college. The good news is that colleges will use the data to better support these students. The bad news is that in theory they could also use it to decide against admitting candidates with these traits.

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I’ve written about this before but I’ve since gotten some tips from readers on other great colleges for students with learning disabilities. I’m just going to list them here, rather than describe their specific attributes, but the specifics are available on their websites. The list includes: Curry College in Boston; Dean College, 20 miles from Providence, R.I.; Landmark College in Vermont; Lynn University in Florida; Southern Illiniois University at Carbondale; the University of Arizona in Tuscon; the University of Denver; and the University of Indianapolis.

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iTunes University is an excellent way for a high school student to get an idea of what college courses might be like or for an adult to continue their education. It’s free and there is a wide array of subject matter to choose from. You can access it on your iPhone, iPad or iTouch, or by downloading iTunes on your computer.

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Holiday break might be a fun time to sit down as a family and talk about community service projects that you could all do together. After you brainstorm the type of project that everyone would enjoy, there are a number of resources to help get you started. A good first stop is the volunteer binder at Sonoma High, but you can also check the following sites online for more ideas. The Network for Good (www.networkforgood.com) connects people to charities and has a search tool to see which welcome children or teens. Volunteer Match (www.volunteermatch.org) is a great resource to find organizations in the areas that need help. Doing Good Together (www.doinggoodtogether.org) specializes in family-focused ways parents and kids can volunteer together. If your children are all grown or away at school, it can be as simple as entering a benefit 5k run together over the holidays.

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The website edutopia (www.edutopia.com) recently summarized the top education ideas/trends of the year: • Empowering teachers with a do-it-yourself culture, including the encouragement for them to try new ideas, borrow best practices. • The potential of open-source (free) textbooks. • Using educational video games as a learning tool. • Using student data to inform classroom teaching with better understanding of student learning styles. • Flipped classrooms – a new trend toward moving the lecturing in the classroom to home (via online lessons like Khan Academy) and bringing homework back into the classroom where students can be directed in the practice of their learning. • Using Digital Badges to reward self-directed learning. Educators are re-remembering how much students like to compete and to be rewarded for their progress. In the most successful online educational games, students earn and win badges in their progress.   • One idea that I have seen employed here in Sonoma is teachers using a website to enhance and save classroom time. One local fifth grade classroom starts every day with the Brainpop video of the day (www.brainpop.com)

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Marc Tucker, author of “Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems,” recently led a team of researchers in proposing five major ways to “save” the U.S. education system. His ideas, in brief, include: • Making admission to teacher training more competitive. • Raising teacher compensation significantly. • Allowing larger class sizes. • Replacing annual standardized testing with three federally required tests to gauge mastery at the end of elementary school, 10th grade and 12th grade. • Spending more money on students who need more help getting to high standards. These are hot topics and thought-provoking ideas that would be difficult to implement, but are certainly worth discussing.

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I have heard from a number of readers that they enjoy information about free apps relating to education. Behold www.appitic.com – a website that catalogs, in a logical and searchable way, 1,300-plus educational apps. Check it out!

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There was a highly controversial article written by the Associated Press about Asian-American high school seniors not marking “Asian” on college application forms in the hopes of by-passing what is perceived to be an “Asian quota.” Rumors have spread that some Ivy League schools require higher SAT scores for Asians and, for years, many Asian-Americans have been convinced that it’s harder for them to gain admission to the nation’s top colleges. Asian-Americans meet selective colleges’ admissions standards far out of proportion to their 6 percent representation in the U.S. population, and they are thought to need test scores hundreds of points higher than other ethnic groups to have an equal chance of admission.

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Each year, in mid-December, students who applied Early Action (non-binding) or Early Decision (binding) to college will hear back with the decision, several months before their peers who waited for the regular deadline. The advantage of applying early is frequently a significantly better chance of admission. American University, mentioned below, for example, typically admits 43 percent of its applicants in the regular decision pool and last year accepted 79 percent of their Early Decision applicants. Dartmouth accepted 12 percent regular decision last year, and 25 percent ED. The bump can be less significant with Early Action (EA), but Santa Clara, for example, accepted 58 percent in regular round last year and 73 percent EA. Lewis and Clark in Oregon accepted 68 percent regular and 77 percent EA. So why doesn’t everyone apply “Early?” 1. You have to be organized. 2. You have to love one school far more than the others. 3. You can’t compare financial aid packages because you see only one school’s aid offer.

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There are a handful of well-regarded colleges now that specialize in accommodating the unique needs of students with dyslexia, ADD and ADHD and ensuring that these students succeed in mainstream college classes. The top six schools cited by experts are the University of Arizona, the University of Alabama, the University of Denver, Lesley University in Boston and American University in Washington, D.C.

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How far we’ve come … colleges really want to ensure a gender balanced freshman class but girls of most racial groups now outpace their brothers in going to college. A USD law professor recently published an article in “Engage” on the apparently growing practice of sex discrimination of behalf of men in college admissions. Many public and private colleges have admitted that they have “too many” female applicants and are therefore discriminating in favor of men – largely because more women than men apply to college and their academic credentials are in some ways better.

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No matter what your child’s age, it is never too early to introduce them to the concept and value of community service. Not only will they have a better sense of how fortunate they are, it is also a rising factor in college admissions. DoSomething.org has returned with its annual Community Service and College Study. They surveyed admissions counselors at more than half of the top 50 colleges and found that community service now ranks number four in importance in college admissions decisions after GPA, scores and extra-curriculars, and ranks higher than interviews, essays and legacy relationships to the school. Check out http://www.dosomething.org. Instead of staring at a TV screen over the holiday break, urge your high school or college student to use the break to squeeze in a short internship or to volunteer for a position related to their interests. If they are interested in the medical profession, they could volunteer at a local hospital; interested in teaching, contact a local school, library, or childcare provider. Many professional offices are also short-staffed with folks on vacation and might be happy for an extra pair of hands.

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You have likely heard the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). At the Big Ideas Fest, everyone was talking about STEM. Not as a curriculum but as a framework for teaching. With the Arts such a big element of engineering and science, there is logic to this, though controversy abounds. The consensus was that teaching how to think across disciplines is a more effective way to teach and better preparation for real world applications of knowledge.

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If you are looking for ideas for Christmas, this one looks interesting in light of all the recent news reports that young men aren’t succeeding in school in the same way that young women are. “Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men,” by Michael Kimmel, details the many challenges modern day young men face in becoming adults. With a diminishing population of young men entering and graduating from college, “Guyland” advocates that each adult has the opportunity to be the charismatic role model that could help to turn things around for a struggling young man. I’m guessing that the Mentoring Alliance folks would agree with that.

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My favorite new college planning website is http://www.meritaid.com. It is the web’s first comprehensive directory of merit scholarships. Merit aid is basically grants and scholarships for high performing middle class (and above) students, and it can reduce the cost of attending a college by tens of thousands of dollars a year. Which colleges grant merit aid is one factor to consider in addition to the other aspects of college fit. And while merit aid is usually higher for students with strong grades/scores, many merit scholarships require only a 2.0 GPA and take into account accomplishments in leadership and community involvement. The site is free.

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There is a lot of talk about college debt but a 2012 story in The New York Times found that only one-tenth of 1 percent of college freshmen, and only three-tenths of 1 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients, accumulate more than $100,000 in undergraduate student debt. Even among recipients of bachelor’s degrees, 90 percent manage to graduate with less than $40,000 of debt.  (Debt is higher for those going on to grad school). When you combine these statistics with all the recent information about how much more employable college grads are than those without degrees, the case for college continues to be very strong.

One response

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