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Education Roundup XLIX: Disorganized kids, best book for teens, sing it to learn it and more

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Raising a giving child: Here are five ways to raise a kid who gives back, according to Beth Kobliner, author of “Make Your Kid a Money Genius.”

— Start a charitable matching plan, kicking in a dollar for every dollar she gives to a charity she cares about.

— Don’t just ignore people who ask for money on the street, say “sorry not today” and explain your giving philosophy to your child.

— Emphasizing local giving will help your child understand the issues on your community.

— Don’t overpraise giving. Don’t make it about praise, make it about how it feels.

Adulthood: A new book called “Choose Your Own Adulthood” by Hal Runkel explains how a series of small choices that young adults make can play a large role in determining their adulthood. His emphasis on the understanding the difference between “what we want most” and “what we want right now” really resonates.

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Good news regarding yogurt: Researchers think they have discovered a direct link between bacteria in the gut and mental health. A lab experiment has led researchers to believe that simply eating yogurt could influence mood and ease mental disorders. Lactobacillus is a probiotic bacteria found in live-cultures yogurt. Researchers hope that their findings could offer an alternative to drugs in treating depression, stress, and anxiety disorders. http://tinyurl.com/jqsynvf

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Soccer brain damage: Evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a potential cause of dementia caused by repeated blows to the head, has been found in the brains of former soccer players. Researchers do not yet know exactly what causes CTE or how significant the risk is. http://tinyurl.com/jy8qapu

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Times are changing: According to a Census Bureau survey, more than half of Millennials (born roughly between 1983 and 2000), think a spouse and kids are not very important. The generation is more focused on jobs and economic success than on marriage and kids. tinyurl.com/lqjkk5g

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Best book for teens: Bill Gates recently said that if he could give every graduating senior a present, it would be Steve Pinker’s book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.” He describes it as the most inspiring book he has ever read.

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Disorganized kids: Executive function is the magic ingredient that gives us the ability to plan and organize, manage time, initiate action, and achieve goals — skills that don’t often develop until our late teens and mid-20s. Author Carolyn Carpeneti presents the issue of executive function in a clear, accessible, and relatable manner in her book “Taking Flight: Mastering Executive Function.” If you are looking for a step-by-step guide, this is a great resource.

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Twice exceptional: There is an intriguing new book out called “The Power of Different – The Link Between Disorder and Genius.” Author Gail Saltz examines the gifts of the atypical mind. If you have a child who seems different, it might be a good (and comforting) read.

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Take a walk: Adults and students alike are more focused at work and feel less exhausted at the end of a long day if they take a walk outside midday, according to a new study. Participants enjoyed their breaks more on days they walked, reporting improvements in concentration and fatigue. tinyurl.com/mra2c9t

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AP classes: California now ranks fifth in the nation in the percentage of public and private graduates who scored at least a 3 out of 5 on an AP exam during high school (28.5 percent). More than 42 percent of the state’s public high school students took at least one test, a number that has risen each year. tinyurl.com/jemj328

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Suicide tool: Facebook is launching new tools to help people who may be thinking of suicide, and for friends and family who want to help. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 29 year olds. When someone is thinking of suicide or hurting themselves, Facebook already has tools that let friends reach out directly or report a post but the company has redesigned its suicide prevention tools and integrated them into live video. People can now chat directly with someone from organizations like Crisis Text Line, Lifeline and the National Eating Disorder Association. The site is also testing ways to use artificial intelligence to find patterns in posts that have been reported for suicide and make it easier to identify similar posts.

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Sing it to learn it: Brain scientists seem to agree that singing facts is an excellent way to learn. There’s a great playlist for the car, home, or classroom at growingbookbybook.com/kids-songs-that-build-literacy-skills/.

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College freshman are stressed: A huge survey of today’s college freshmen has found that they are very engaged politically, they are cost-conscious (mainly about paying for college) and they love social media. Fewer freshman describe their political leanings as middle of the road than ever. The article makes the point that, thanks to medication, more college students with psychological disorders than before are able to attend college. As for social media, they love Instagram and almost half spend six hours a week on social media.  If you subscribe to WSJ, read here, otherwise read here.

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Free textbooks: Are your college student’s textbook costs breaking the bank? Here a few ideas. University library: What they don’t have in-stock can often be requested via interlibrary loan from other libraries. Professors often put the textbooks for their courses on reserve. Arrange a book swap: Student organizations sometime set up online book exchanges or students can start their own informal group. Project Gutenberg: The oldest digital library in the world offers more than 43,000 free e-books, e-readers. Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library: It allows members to check out e-books for free. This site is best for popular and classic titles. tinyurl.com/hlw656x

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Better autism detection: A small study is nearly 98 percent accurate in diagnosing autism in kids between the ages of 3 and 10, the researchers claim. Researchers say an experimental blood test has shown promise as a novel way to diagnose autism regardless of where on the spectrum an individual is. Read more at tinyurl.com/mb7vcdf

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Study abroad: A team looked at the 48 most popular countries at which American students choose to study abroad in college and determined which are the least expensive. The least pricey are Mexico, India, Guatemala, Peru, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Morrocco, Kenya and Brazil. Read more at tinyurl.com/myxdtex.

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Actual college costs: There is a new site that can give you a quick sense of what college tuition your student might actually pay, versus the advertised price. For almost all families who earn less than $200,000 a year, the tuition might be much lower than they think. Try it out at http://myintuition.org/

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Podcasts: Podcasts are all the rage lately and a reader has recommended a few that she has enjoyed.

– “Empowering Parents Podcast”

– “Parenting Bytes”

– “Inside the Mind of Teens and Tweens”

– “Launching your Daughter”

– “Invisibilia” (not as much about parenting but more about just smart, intriguing topics)

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Changing times: 20 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to a new survey conducted by Harris Poll. This number far exceeds the percentages in other age groups — 12 percent of 35- to 51-year-olds, 7 percent of 52- to 71-year-olds and 5 percent of those 72 and older. tinyurl.com/lu8o6e8

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Check your sugar: Researchers think that drinking sugary beverages possibly causes accelerated aging and Alzheimer’s disease. The study, in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, found that the more sugary drinks consumed, the lower the total brain volume and the lower the scores on memory tests. “Although we can’t prove cause and effect, these data suggest that we should be cautious about drinking sugary beverages,” said the lead author, Matthew P. Pase said in a New York Times interview. “They’re empty calories that contribute to weight gain and metabolic disease.”

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Chores: The Wall Street Journal recently ran a great infographic of the perfect chores at every age. Author Ellen Byron says that kids 5 and under can pick up toys, clean their bedroom and comb their hair. Ages 6 to 9 can take care of pets, operate appliances and make their own bed. Ages 10 to 12 can take out the trash, make lunch and clean their bathroom. Ages 13 to 15 can mow the lawn, wash windows and clean the garage. And for ages 16 to 18, they can wash their own clothes, do the grocery shopping and handle car maintenance. How are you doing? Or the list is here.

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Gen Z: The investment platform Stash just surveyed more than 25,000 young people, and found that almost half of all Generation Z’ers (those 20 and under) are concerned about student debt and actively investing to pay for college, but compared to other generations, Gen Z scored last on a basic financial literacy test.

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Teens in space: An upcoming Netflix documentary, The Mars Generation, follows a group of teen space trainees as they learn about human spaceflight at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discuss the technology that’s in the works that could take us to space. The show debuts on May 5.

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Babysitting rates: According to a new survey, the average babysitting rate in 2016 was about $14 per hour, up 26 percent from $11 per hour in 2010. And… the rates in Northern California are the highest in the country, averaging around $16.50 in San Francisco and even more in San Jose. Approximately 1 in 3 respondents said they also tip on top of the sitters’ hourly rates. But even though costs are up, 77 percent of parents don’t think they are paying too much and 77 percent claim that they would actually give their sitter a raise.

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Podcast for kids: NPR Is launching its first podcast for kids ages 5 to 12. The show will focus on science, technology, discovery and inventions. Search for “Wow in the World.”

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Language learning: NBC Learn Languages is a new subscription-based desktop and mobile app that helps students of all ages learn English on any device. The app uses videos from programs such as “Today” and “NBC Nightly News” to help learners improve their ability to speak and understand English. nbclearnlanguages.com. Currently available for Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, German and Portuguese. Cost $9-29 monthly.

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Health eating perks: Fascinatingly, a new study by the Brookings Institute has found that at schools where kids were fed a healthier school lunch every day, there was no drop in obesity but researchers did find a rise in academic performance. Read about it here.

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Cheap textbooks: Bigwords.com lets students compare textbook prices from all the best online stores at once. It appears to be 35 to 45 percent cheaper than other online stores, and up to 90 percent off of list prices.

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My weekly columns in the Sonoma Index-Tribune can be found here.

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Education Roundup XLI: The middle school years, smart kids, organization tips and more

Quick summaries and links for dozens of education tips, resources, research items and more (I scour the Internet so you don’t have to).

Middle school advice: Tips and advice abound for students and parents this time of year but one blog really resonated with me. Flown & Grown is a great site for parents of middle and high school students. Here are some of their pearls of wisdom for middle school students:
1. Do one thing well … because part of high school is finding your place and that is much easier to do if you are selected for the orchestra or given a role in the school play.

2. Get enough sleep … as it allows teens to perform better intellectually and athletically, improves mood and helps maintain healthy weight. “Teach your child to worship at the altar of an eight-hour night’s sleep and you have set them up for life.”

3. Model self-control for your children … whether it be your temper or careful driving or moderate drinking. grownandflown.com/getting-ready-for-high-school/

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Thanks mom: Researchers now believe that mothers are responsible for the transmission of the intelligence genes and a father’s genes affect a child’s limbic system (emotions and drives). That said, it is estimated that between 40-60 percent of intelligence is hereditary. This means environment and stimulation also do play a big role. tinyurl.com/hr5xp3u

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Empty nesting: As I have two kids away at college now, an article titled “Have a Kid Away at College? Ten Things You’ll Feel” hit home. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Having a kid at college is getting fired. Your job was to get this kid to college. Your services are no longer needed. Just. Like. That. No severance, no plaque, no cake, no nothing.

2. Having a kid at college is needing a fix. You said you wouldn’t. You promised. You meant it this time and maybe even truly believed you could do it. But you take a big gulp, and try to hold back the stammer when you call anyway, because your heart can’t take not hearing the sound of his voice.

3. Having a kid at college is a “Spot the Difference” quiz. There’s nothing more discomfiting than a good long look at your college kid’s changing face. Is that a new haircut? Does she wear her glasses all day now? Where did he get that shirt?

4. Having a kid at college is climbing into a time machine set to “Freshman Year.” It all comes back to you: funny stories about dorm-mates; how terrified you were of a certain professor; the shock and awe of first-time life on your own. grownandflown.com/having-kid-away-at-college-truly-like/

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Reading apps: Kids find it easier to read text on phones and iPads than we do. I came across a great list of free reading programs for kids on mobile devices. Some of the best to try out include Farfaria, Bookboard, Timbuktu, Learn with Hom, Oxford Owl and Memtales and I Like Stories.

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Eat your fruit: New research suggests that eating lots of fruit in pregnancy can boost a baby’s intelligence, at least according to a new article in the Wall Street Journal. Each additional regular daily serving corresponded with an increase in cognitive scores. More research is needed but if you’re expecting, it wouldn’t hurt to stock up on extra fruit. tinyurl.com/jlrtr5b

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Good news for annoying moms: British researchers have found that parents who constantly remind their teenage daughters of their super-high expectations raise young girls who will grow up to become successful women. “Behind every successful woman is a nagging mom? Teenage girls more likely to succeed if they have pushy mothers,” said the press release. University of Essex researchers found that girls whose “main parent” – that’s usually the mother – consistently displayed high parental expectations were far less likely to get pregnant at a young age, get stuck in a dead-end/low-wage job and were more likely to attend college. tinyurl.com/zj8vexh

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Stifled students: Millions of American students are not challenged enough because our schools overemphasize an age-based curriculum, according to the Institute for Education Policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Education. The biggest finding was that the U.S. wastes billions of dollars each year teaching content to students that they already know. Researchers blame the U.S. practice of grouping children in classrooms based on their age not on their level of proficiency. The authors found that between 20 and 40 percent of elementary and middle school students perform at least one grade level above their current grade in reading, and 11 to 30 percent score at least one grade level above in math. tinyurl.com/hfd2oem

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College app news: These days, all students who apply to private colleges use Common App to file their applications online. The site this fall has launched a new, free app to help students manage and keep track of their college applications. The “onTrack” app lets students track their progress in completing applications, add or delete schools from their list and set deadline reminders. Commonapp.org

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Homework help: There’s a free new tool for homework help that is worth a try. Socratic.org is billed “a digital tutor in your pocket.” The site uses artificial intelligence and data from millions of student questions to understand where a student is stuck. Students take a photo of their homework question and get explanations and videos instantly. The site is good for science, history, English, economics and more (no math yet).

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Raising brilliant kids: It appears that telling your kids to “zip it” when they are asking endless questions is a mistake. According to “Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children,” science strongly suggests that we should engage at these times and our kids will reap the benefits down the road. Most interesting, though, is the authors’ scalding indictment of schools today. “We’re training kids to do what computers do, which is spit back facts. And computers are always going to be better than human beings at that. But what they’re not going to be better at is being social, navigating relationships, being citizens in a community. So we need to change the whole definition of what success in school, and out of school, means.” This is next up on my bedside table.

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Advice for college freshman: I loved these words of wisdom offered by college professors for their freshman students, as gathered by the Grown & Flown website. Some of the tops suggestions were:

• Show up for class – don’t skip unless you have a contagious illness and don’t sit in the back. As one professor said, “I can practically predict a student’s grade based on where he or she sits.”

• Introduce yourself to your professor and go to office hours. Ask for advice on how to improve your work. “These people will be your references, advocates, and possibly even friends later in life; you want them to remember your name when the semester is over.”

• Affiliate – join something the first week and try out any and all groups that seem interesting until you find your niche.

• Study abroad – because language classes are expensive and hard to schedule in the real world.

• Tap into the resources available to you – whether it career advice, funding for internships, opportunities to work with professors on research or mental health counseling.

The entire list is worth reading at grownandflown.com/professors-advice-for-college/.

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The concept of time: Available in both English and Spanish, the new(ish) app KazuTime aims to increase the focus and concentration needed for optimum learning in children ages 3 to 8. By showing time elapsing through visual, auditory, tactile and cognitive cues, children are better able to understand and come to terms with the concept of time. Kazutime.com

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Student loan wizard: As parents face huge college bills and try to determine how much is too much to borrow, there is a new site that aims to take the guesswork out of this difficult question. The interactive calculator can determine how much you can afford to borrow in student loan funds based on your future expected earnings and the salary you will need in order to afford your student loan payments. mappingyourfuture.org/paying/debtwizard/

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Low cost textbooks: The textbook comparison site, TextSurf, can help you find best deal on textbooks. You enter the ISBN number or title of a book and compare prices. The site also provides students with the best sites to sell their books back as well. textsurf.com

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Study abroad app: A new app – called Zipskee – enables university students to safely connect with other travelers or locals when studying abroad. The thought is that the app can help with recommendations on where to eat or what to do on a weekend, in addition to building friendships. zipskee.com

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Rate your teachers:  Have you looked up your students’ teachers on RateMyTeachers.com? It’s not for the faint of heart, as students can be very critical. On the site, students can publish ratings and comments regarding their teachers. This site could be very helpful for students before scheduling classes to see if a particular teacher will meet their individual needs. ratemyteachers.com.

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No liquor at Stanford: You won’t find hard alcohol at Stanford University parties anymore. The university has banned liquors that exceed 40 proof from undergraduate parties, while also prohibiting undergraduate students from having large hard-alcohol containers in student residences. Students who are of legal age can still drink beer and wine. The new policy is a “harm reduction strategy.” tinyurl.com/z2lm9w3

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Staying organized: if your high school or college student struggles with organization skills, there are a handful of great apps to try out. MyStudyLife helps with planning schedules, assignments, exams and essay revisions, and is a great way keep your school work organized in college. myHomework helps you to keep track of homework assignments that are due for each class. You can easily keep track of what’s been completed and what’s late (or about to be). The complete list is at society19.com/15-awesome-websites-to-keep-you-organized-in-college/

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Worst case scenarios: Schools in Alaska are beginning an initiative to provide teachers and students, from kindergarten to 12th grade, tips on how to evade a school shooter. The Anchorage School District will use the ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate) as already used by 3,700 districts across the U.S. tinyurl.com/hpext9d

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Free audio books and movies: I may have already plugged this but I am a huge fan of the our local library’s new service, Hoopla, which lets library cardholders stream movies, television shows, music albums, eBooks, audio books and comics. The service can be accessed through the library website, through hoopladigital.com or the hoopla digital mobile app for mobile devices. There are thousands of titles to choose from and are available to borrow 24/7.

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Admissions info: If your family is deep in the weeds of building a college list and visiting campuses, there are a few great college admission officer blogs that provide helpful inside information. Even if the colleges on the list aren’t on your teen’s list, the blogs provide useful advice. grownandflown.com/best-college-admissions-blogs/

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Making money: While getting a degree isn’t all about making money, it is hard to resist peeking at the list of which colleges produce the most millionaires. The most recent ranking lists these as 1-10: Harvard, U. Pennsylvania, Stanford, Oxford, Berkeley, University of Texas/Austin, Cornell, Princeton, Yale and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. tinyurl.com/hntledm

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Family friendly TV: The folks at Common Sense Media have some recommendations for the fall TV season. On their list: “The Kicks” on Amazon (about soccer); “Speechless” on ABC (features a disabled teen); “Pitch” on Fox (female major leaguer), “Timeless” on NBC (historical drama); “Splash and Bubbles” on PBS Kids (from Jim Henson Company); “Anne of Green Gables” on PBS (a strong remake); “Gilmore Girls” on Netflix (strong female leads and outstanding writing). Commonsensemedia.org.

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Lazy pot smokers: A new study has found that the main ingredient in marijuana causes rats, at least, to be less willing to try a cognitively demanding task. The new research from the University of British Columbia supports the belief that pot smoking causes laziness. The rats ability to do a specific task wasn’t marred, they just didn’t want to it. tinyurl.com/hbe2fuz

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Old and happy: It’s recently been found that adults get happier as they age. New research at UC San Diego: “Participants reported that they felt better about themselves and their lives year upon year, decade after decade,” said study author Dilip Jeste, MD. The findings are in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Jeste found high levels of perceived stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety among adults in their 20s and 30s participating in the study. Older participants were far happier and more content.

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Discounted textbooks: High school and college textbooks continue to be shockingly expensive. A new site called redshelf.com offers a low(er) cost e-textbook alternative. A recent search of some common 101 textbooks yielded options at a fraction of the cost.

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Good news on financial aid: This fall, students will be able to file for financial aid for college using prior-prior year tax data. And for the first time, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid will be made available starting Saturday, Oct. 1 – a full three months earlier than previously allowed. The changes will give students an earlier and more accurate idea of anticipated financial aid and college costs, and have the potential to affect college deadlines for applications and acceptances. Under the streamlined procedure, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of additional students will apply for aid, in turn boosting the number of first-generation, low-income students who pursue a college degree. Fafsa.org

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Sit with me: A new app aims to make sure that kids no longer dread the lunch room. “Sit With Us” helps students who have difficulty finding a place to sit locate a welcoming group in the lunchroom. Students can designate themselves as “ambassadors” on the app, thereby inviting others to join them. Ambassadors can then post “open lunch” events, inviting kids who don’t know where to sit to join the ambassadors’ table. A 16-year-old Southern California student, Natalie Hampton, designed Sit With Us, after she ate alone her entire seventh grade year, she told LA Daily News. The app is free at sitwithus.io.

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Teen stories: Teenagers in Times is a monthly round-up of the news and feature stories about young people that have recently appeared across sections of NYTimes.com. The free access site includes inspiring articles as well as a lesson plan and an activity sheet. The site’s “high-interest” nonfiction can be very appealing to teens who don’t love reading. tinyurl.com/hm84hof

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Khan Academy: Not only is the free online tutorial site Khan Academy great for college test prep and elementary and middle school homework help, the site also now has special tutoring sessions for AP classes, including biology, chemistry and art. The site recently added more than 40,000 new interactive practice questions so students of all ages can study anytime, anywhere. If your student is struggling, try khanacademy.org first.

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Popular colleges: The 10 colleges that have seen the largest increase in applications in recent years are: 10. University of Washington (Seattle), 9. University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), 8. San Diego State, 7. Tuskegee University (Alabama), 6. UC Irvine, 5. UC San Diego, 4. Texas State University, 3. UC Berkeley, 2. UCLA and 1. New York University. Lots of California colleges on the list. tinyurl.com/zaq68zl

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Best college towns: Web research company Niche recently ranked the top 30 college towns in America based on rent, nightlife, cost of living, etc. From one to 10, they are Cambridge, Ann Arbor, Ames (Iowa), Boulder, Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Princeton, Lawrence (Kansas) and Decorah (Iowa again?). The other California town to make the top 30 was Santa Barbara at No. 19.

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Revised concussion advice: UCLA Health says too many parents are following outdated advice when caring for a child with a concussion, and it could be making their child’s symptoms worse. More than 3 out of 4 parents (77 percent) said they would likely wake their child up throughout the night to check on them, but doctors now think that does more harm than good after the first night. In fact, doctors encourage sleep very early on because that will help the brain heal faster. Basically experts suggest getting back to a normal schedule as soon as possible. Most concussion symptoms subside within two to three weeks according to experts. tinyurl.com/jb2y9lc

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Early morning exercise: According to a recent study, students may do better in class, learn more and better sustain focus after a morning gym class. On days when students didn’t exercise, they were more likely to interrupt, make noise and stare into space. This might suggest a long, brisk walk to school would be a good thing. The study was published in Preventive Medicine Reports.

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If you find these items useful or interesting, please forward this blog or email to your friends, who can subscribe to receive an email from me once a month. I love hearing tips and comments from readers.

Education RoundUp XXIX: College for free, college tips and resources, free test prep, moral children, where billionaires went to college

CNN has looked at which colleges worldwide have produced the most billionaire graduates. Not all billionaires went to elite colleges and 35 percent of billionaires didn’t graduate from college at all. That said, here we go with the top ten and how many billionaires each produced:

University of Pennsylvania – 25; Harvard – 22; Yale – 20; University of Southern California -16; Princeton – 14; Cornell – 14; Stanford – 14; UC Berkeley – 12; University of Mumbai – 12; London School of Economics – 11. http://tinyurl.com/k833wyn

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Peers play a critical role in high school success, according to a recent study in the journal Social Science Research. The research found that actively participating in an extracurricular activity during high school increased the odds of a student enrolling in college. Participating with peers who have higher-than-normal GPAs makes the student twice as likely to go to college. Among the groups with the highest GPAs were honor society, math students, science students, debate team members, student council members, orchestra members and tennis players. Football and wrestling students had by far the lowest GPAs, and the lowest percentage of students who would later enroll in a four-year college. Academic extracurriculars (debate, math club, etc.) were more powerful indicators of college-attendance than sports, performance and student leadership. According to the study, participating in more than one extracurricular had no extra benefit. tinyurl.com/ojmz7u2.

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Does your child’s backpack seem astoundingly heavy? The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that the weight of a backpack should be less than 10 percent to 15 percent of a child’s body weight. Signs of a too heavy pack: grunting when picking up a backpack, red marks on shoulders and complaints or arms or fingers “falling asleep.”

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Roominate are terrific new architecture and interior design building kits aimed at young girls. Kids can build multiple floors, balconies, and columns, place working lights, and fans and design furniture and floor plans. It is considered one of the best STEM toys of the year. The Roominate line was created by two female engineers out of Caltech, MIT and Stanford on a mission to get more girls interested in engineering. They believe that early exposure through the toys will inspire the next generation of female technology innovators. roominatetoy.com

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If your teen is making you crazy, here is a comforting quote from popular parenting author and Ph.D., Wendy Mogel:  “Don’t take it personally if your teenager treats you like crap. Judge his character not on the consistency of in-house politeness, clarity of speech or degree of eye contact but on what teachers say, whether he’s welcomed by his friends’ parents, and his manners towards his grandparents, the neighbors, salespeople and servers in restaurants.”  challengesuccess.org.

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High school students all seem to fixate on the same top colleges. CollegeBound.net recently released a list of the most underrated universities in each state. On our coast, the schools named were UC Santa Cruz, Oregon State and Washington State University. See the complete list at businessinsider.com/map-the-most-underrated-college-in-every-state-2014-4.

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While it is great when teens can visit the colleges on their list before applying, sometimes it just isn’t possible. I recommend your student spend some time looking through online reviews posted by current students as part of their research. While it makes sense to take student comments with a grain of salt, these reviews do provide a sense of any college’s strengths, weaknesses and culture. College Times TV has compiled a list of 17 web sites that run real student reviews at collegetimes.tv/college-review-websites. Their favorites are collegetimes.tv and studentsreview.com.

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Algebra is widely regarded as a gatekeeper subject, in that it indicates future success and acts as the key entrance point into advanced math. To that end, the website gettingsmart.com offers 20 great enrichment resources for teachers and parents that just might help make the difference in your student’s algebra proficiency. Check them out at tinyurl.com/o2996vp.

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A new study shows that offering daily, before-school, aerobic activities to children could help in reducing the symptoms of ADHD in the classroom and at home. Students with signs of ADHD (inattentiveness, moodiness and difficulty getting along with others) responded positively to morning exercise. “Early studies suggest that physical activity can have a positive effect on children who suffer from ADHD,” said the researchers. (Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology). In related research, a recent Finnish study shows that higher levels of physical activity are related to better academic achievement during the first three school years, particularly in boys. Students getting greater physical activity at recess, and walking or biking to and from school, were related to better reading skills and higher arithmetic tests than less active boys. The results did not hold true for girls.

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Thanks to a slew of hot titles published in their formative years (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, etc.), millennials read more books than the over-30 crowd, according to research released last week (Pew). Almost 90 percent of Americans younger than 30 said they read a book in the past year compared with almost 80 percent of those older than 30. Americans are also buying more books than they borrow from libraries. http://tinyurl.com/qxdsr2a

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College students are on their phones nine hours a day? I checked this statement twice because I didn’t think I could be reading it right. A recent study on cell phone activity conducted at Baylor University, and published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, found that female college students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their cell phones, and male college students spend nearly eight (this includes multi-tasking). http://tinyurl.com/pprqqds

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While students should find and follow their passions in college, I can’t resist sharing with you the 10 “worst” college (undergraduate) majors for today’s job market, based on underemployed findings and median pay research conducted by the web site PayScale. By underemployed, they mean holding a job not in your field and/or one that leaves you overeducated, underpaid, or not able to make ends meet. #10 – psychology, #9 education, #8 liberal arts, #7 graphic design, #6 English language and literature, #5 sociology, #4 general studies, #3 health care administration, #2 business management and administration and #1 criminal justice. http://tinyurl.com/npa6wqg

• • •

Here are some tips on ways to spot a great teacher, courtesy of Wall Street Journal reporter Dana Goldstein? She concluded that great teachers:

“Have active intellectual lives outside their classroom … the best teachers often love to travel, have fascinating hobbies or speak passionately about their favorite philosopher or poet.”

“Believe intelligence is achievable, not inborn. Effective educators reject the idea that smarts are something that only some students have; they expect all children to perform at high levels, even those who are unruly, learning disabled or struggling with English.”

Are data-driven. “Effective teachers assess students at the beginning of new units to identify their strengths and weaknesses, then quiz students when units end to determine whether concepts and skills have sunk in.”

Ask great questions. Great teachers focus on conceptual not factual understanding – not when was the Depression, but what factors led to it. (WSJ Sept. 6.)

• • •

The Chinese, Turkish and Korean languages are said to express number concepts more clearly than English – one possible explanation for why it is harder for young American children to learn basic math skills. The Wall Street Journal tackled this topic recently, reporting that this language gap is gaining attention from educators and psychologists. An example – we have the word 11, in many other languages the word is ten-one, helping with understanding of place values. The author suggests some math video games that can help: Addition Blocks, Hungry Guppy, Hungry Fish and Monster School Bus, to name a few. WSJ, Sept. 10.

***

Students struggling with algebra should check out the free, online, easy-to-use online site Algebra Nation. The site offers a lot of options that can support a student’s in-class algebra instruction.algebranation.com.

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I love the idea of heralding up-and-coming colleges and universities that are making innovative changes in their academics, student life and diversity. A list of the top 10, announced by U.S. News & World Report last week, are: Tulane University, George Mason University, Drexel University, Biola University, Portland State, Clemson University, Indiana University, Purdue University, Georgia State University, University of Southern California, Northeastern University, University of Central Florida, Arizona State (Tempe) and University of Maryland (Baltimore). tinyurl.com/lk3whwt.

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While no student should rely on rankings when developing their college list, it is always interesting to me to see how organizations rank colleges differently. The 2014 list of the world’s best colleges by the Times of London honors the following top 10 (in order from the top): Cal Tech, Harvard University, University of Oxford, Stanford University, University of Cambridge, MIT, Princeton University, UC Berkeley, Imperial College London and Yale University (tie). Other California colleges making the top 50 were: UCLA (12), UC Santa Barbara (37), UC San Diego (41). Berkeley and UCLA have the honor of being the two highest ranked public universities on the list. tinyurl.com/lg5op3s

• • •

For the first time ever, 15 nonprofit organizations have joined forces to support the parents of (the one in five) children with learning and attention issues. The site brings together technology, resources and access to experts in an online community. I’m impressed by all the resources they have gathered in one place. understood.org

• • •

A new website called Packback offers a growing collection of 3,000 digital textbooks in 21 subjects that students can rent for $3 to $5 per title in a 24-hour period. Books can add thousands to the cost of a college education (and private high school education) so sites like these – as well as digital ebooks – are certainly the wave of the future. For any of you who have had a child leave a crucial textbook at school or temporarily misplace one, paying $3 for 24 hours access almost sounds like a bargain. And your first rental is free. Have you seen the TV show Shark Tank where contestants pitch business ideas? The site first hit it big there. packbackbooks.com

• • •

There is a new online service that isn’t cheap but promises to help students better understand their interests and aptitudes. YouScience claims to use the latest psychology and technology available to predict precisely the majors and careers where a student is most likely to succeed. Founders say their goal is to stop teens from wasting their first two years of college. Students participate in a series of game-like exercises to discover their optimal college and career path. Creators claim this is not an intelligence test and goes far beyond what Kuder, or similar in-school interest and skills assessments, can offer. The cost ranges from $79 to $249. youscience.com

• • •

There is a new PSAT, SAT and ACT app called Play2Prep that offers simulated tests and timed games that students can play on their own or against their friends. The free site includes a progress tracker. Full disclosure – one of my good friends developed it – but it is getting great reviews from major media outlets. play2prep.com.

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With all the focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) major and careers, most students don’t know what kind of occupations fall under the STEM heading. For a good list, visit http://preview.tinyurl.com/pe4xwjs. The list ranges from web developers to animal scientists to astronomers to math and science teachers. Discussion of what people in these careers do might be a good conversation to have with your middle school or high school students.

***

There was a terrific article recently in the New York Times on what kids around the world eat for breakfast. The photographer for the story visited kids in seven countries and chronicled their morning meal. There are some intriguing ideas for parents looking to expand their children’s palates beyond sugary, bready American staples.http://tinyurl.com/kjgn6jj

***

If college in the U.S. is just too expensive and your teen loves the idea of living abroad, how about college in Germany? All German universities are now completely free to Americans (and all other foreign students). No time to learn German? Many of the universities offer international studies degrees taught in English. http://tinyurl.com/kuaou8x

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Yik Yuck. Yik Yak is a terrible free new social media app enabling high school and college students to post anonymous comments about each other. When you log in, you see comments from other posters within 1.5 miles of your location (so every person posting in theory goes to “your” school.) You might taking a look to see what your teen is seeing. Maybe if enough parents log in the site will become uncool. I guarantee you will be upset. One local teacher said he is having a huge problem with the app as a distraction in class.

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While you are tearing your hair out of Yik Yak, “Why Kids Sext” is the issue posed by this month’s cover story in The Atlantic. Author Hanna Rosin found that the girls she interviewed were largely unembarrassed by naked photos of themselves being passed around and unaware that possessing or sending a nude photo of a minor – even a selfie – can be prosecuted as a felony under state child-porn laws. The article delves into why teens are so fascinated by sexting, and is worth a read for parents and teens both. http://theatln.tc/1rDo5qw

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Do you have a daughter who enjoys playing chess? If so, make sure to tell her about California native Jennifer Yu, 12, who last month became the first American girl in 27 years to win the World Youth Chess Championship. http://tinyurl.com/n7lks6h

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Are you concerned about how best to talk to your child about ebola? Reporter Juliana Minter suggests some tips in the Washington Post:

1. Stick to the facts

2. Assure them they are safe

3. Explain that West Africa and their country are very different.

4. Teach them way to protect their own health.

5. Use this as a learning experience (a chance to discuss global issues, health and more). Read the complete article at http://tinyurl.com/mf9kxxo

• • •

While the videogame Minecraft is frequently praised by educators for improving spatial reasoning, math and logic, reporter Clive Thompson wrote recently in Wired Magazine about how it can also be good practice for reading and writing. It is rare that a player doesn’t delve into Minecraft wikis and players guide manuals. Thompson notes that these texts are complex, challenging material written at a high school level, yet are frequently pored over by elementary school students. If your son or daughter likes gaming more than reading, this sounds like an excellent way to sneak veggies into their brownies. wired.com/2014/10/video-game-literacy/

• • •

Linkedin is quickly catching on among high school and college students as a way to create and share their academic credentials and work and volunteer experience. The site has a new college-planning feature and to promote it, the site is giving away $100,000. All you need to do is go to Linkedin and create a Decision Board. You add universities and your potential field of study. You can then share it with others to get advice on your big decision. If you share it with at least one person, you are entered to win. Share your board with at least one person to finalize your entry (due by Friday,Nov. 7)http://tinyurl.com/nb6xeaq

• • •

The Economist magazine recently attempted to quantify the monetary value of being fluent in a second language. While the educational benefits are clear, MIT economist Albert Saiz found the monetary benefits are smaller – and vary based on which language you know. Thanks to basic supply and demand, a crunching of the numbers found worse returns for Spanish study in states with a larger share of Hispanics. He suggests instead that students learn a language in high demand, but short supply. He found knowing a language gives you an average 2 percent bump in pay over your lifetime but just 1.5 percent for Spanish, 2.3 percent for French and 3.8 percent for German. http://tinyurl.com/n26uwo5

• • •

It is a great idea to expose students to all different forms of writing. If you have a student who might enjoy reading movie scripts, you can access legal downloads of more than 80 recent films at gointothestory.blcklst.com/free-script-downloads

• • •

In an article titled, “Welcome to 13th Grade!,” Slate magazine reports on the Oregon high schools that are offering a fifth year of high school. Reporter Rebecca Schuman suggests that every district consider it but admits that as a teen she would have set her house on fire if she had been forced to stay in school another year. The pilot allows students to earn college credit that final year (without paying tuition) and to enter college as sophomores. http://tinyurl.com/o9cxv4a

• • •

All high school students (and their families) who are researching four-year colleges should spend some time at the White House’s College Scorecard site. You can find out more about a college’s affordability and value search colleges based on programs or majors offered, location, and enrollment. http://tinyurl.com/d7xe5z2

• • •

My readers liked the information about German college being free to Americans. As a follow-up, the Washington Post this week wrote about a few others countries where college is free or almost free to U.S. citizens: Finland, Norway, Slovenia, and Brazil. In France, fees are less than $14,000 a year and in Sweden Ph.D. programs are free. Most offer at least some programs entirely in English.http://tinyurl.com/kuaou8x

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Has your K-12 child tried “homeworkspot.com” yet? It is really quite an amazing free resource for homework, school projects, research, and getting questions answered by experts.I logged on and researched a few questions that a middle schooler might be tackling and was impressed. “The reference desk” includes biographies, encyclopedias, safe search engines, statistics and more. There is a section on science fair support, SAT prep, I could go on and on.

• • •

Khan Academy is diving into college admissions. It makes sense as the generation that uses and trusts Khan Academy progresses through high school that the site would add these resources. The new robust section of the website offers advice for every step of the process from high school course planning to surviving freshman year in college.Khanacademy.org

• • •

A segment on public radio recently described up five addictive but educational games that kids can play on their phones to enhance their physics skills (without even knowing that they are exercising their brain). Urge your student to try out: Crayon Physics Deluxe, World of Goo, Coaster Crafter, Amazing Alex and Tinkerbox. For older students, the reporter (from Common Sense Media) recommends Valve’s Portal, Antichamber and Quantum Conundrum.http://tinyurl.com/oxtrnfm

• • •

Are your kids lukewarm on history but love movies? A homeschooling/blogging mother of nine recently created a timeline from 1630 to 2000, broken down into 12 eras and listing the most important people and events. She then found period movies for each time period. In theory, you could teach your children all of American history using her detailed timeline chart. It is something to behold. You can download a pdf of all at http://tinyurl.com/oxy848d

• • •

I am afraid I can’t stop harping about how bad pot is for the teenage brain. Harvard researchers recently studied a composite scan of the brains of 20 pot smokers, ages 18 to 25 and found that even with smoking pot just once or twice a week, there were changes in two significant regions of the brain. The more the subjects smoked, the greater the differences. Researchers are realizing that old research is irrelevant now as pot is much more potent today. http://tinyurl.com/l48llxf

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In researching tutoring options recently I came across WyzAnt, which bills itself as the leading tutoring marketplace on the web with 72,000+ tutors offering private lessons in hundreds of subjects like math, science, test prep, foreign languages, music and computers. Pick a subject, any subject, and you are likely to find a dozen tutors in or around Sonoma already registered on the site (with their background, specialty and prices listed). It’s a worth a look. wyzant.com

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Customcollegerankings.com is a useful (free) tool in comparing colleges based on a wide array of factors (is the admission rate higher for men than women, how many sex offenses happened on campus last year, what is the school’s admissions yield, percentage of students from overseas, etc.). It is definitely worth a look. Or check out your alma mater to see how things have changed since you graduated.Customcollegerankings.com\

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Does your child enjoy math and like competing against others? The Caribou Mathematics Competition is a worldwide online contest held six times a year for grades 3 to 12. The cost is $12 to enter each year.cariboutests.com

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I am always on the lookout for great foreign language learning apps because the daily practice that these apps can provide is a great supplement to in-class learning. The teachthought.com website recommends newcomers HelloTalk, Memrise, busuu and Voxy for learning English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French and more. Most are free. http://tinyurl.com/qg2o7mp

• • •

Study tips billed as the shortest, secret formula to getting good grades:
1. Go to every class.
2. Sit in the front row.
3. Spend at least two hours of study time in the library for every hour you have in class, every week.
4. Ask for help when you need it.
5. Repeat.
Source: CommunityCollegeSuccessblog.com

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Have you seen the hit new animated movie, “Big Hero 6?” We enjoyed it and it makes being an engineering nerd look incredibly compelling. If your child enjoyed it, make sure to check out this website where they explain how all the cool inventions were made.tinyurl.com/qjjc464

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There is a new font called Dyslexie, created by a Danish designer, that is thought to make it much easier for dyslexic students to read. We are trying it out at our house right now. Parents can download it for free at dyslexiefont.com and it took me less than a minute to get it listed as one of my choices in Microsoft Word going forward. It is compatible with most programs. www.dyslexiefont.com/en/dyslexia-font/

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Have you checked out Course Hero? This site enables students to browse millions of study resources, ask tutors for help and to share study materials with each other. The site claims that 93 percent of its members have earned better grades since joining. Some of the site is free, some parts have a cost. coursehero.com

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Has your child ever been deep into their homework, long past their bedtime when you realize you are out of graph paper, lined paper or music paper? The free Printable Paper website lets you print out 1,450 different sheets of paper. printablepaper.net

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There are more changes ahead for the AP courses offered to high school students nationwide. The College Board is in the process of revising many of its 36 courses. The goal is to cover†fewer topics, and reward imaginative thinking more than rote memorization. A new AP Biology course went into effect two years ago and the physics courses are different as of this fall. AP European History and AP Art History will be changed for next year. tinyurl.com/q5d5suf

• • •

And in news from the College Board about the SAT test – it has been confirmed that the new, completely revamped SAT will be unveiled in spring 2016. Sorry sophomores!collegeboard.org/delivering-opportunity/sat/redesign

• • •

As part of National Teen “Don’t Text and Drive” Week, Amica Insurance offers the following safety tips:
• Encourage teens to turn cell phone notifications off. If they can’t see or hear their phone go off, they will be less tempted to pick it up.
• Start a new rule: While driving, cell phones go in the backseat or another spot where they cannot be reached.
• Download an app that will temporarily disable the phone while driving (Live2Tsxt, DriveOFF and DriveScribe).
The app Canary goes one step further ñ it alerts you when your child is speeding or has traveled beyond a predefined area.

• • •

Almost every grown up I can think of would enjoy the gift of a copy of the new book, “How We Learn” by New York Times reporter Benedict Carey. I heard him speak at an education conference at Stanford University last week and his engaging book provides a peek inside how our minds work and easy ways we can all learn and remember better. Brain science has come a long way in the last decade. I highly recommend it.

• • •

I am not Catholic but I enjoyed Pope Francis’ tips on being a happier person, summarized here on the website The Higher Learning:
1. “Live and let live” – by this he basically means, “Move forward and let others do the same.}
2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.”
3. “Proceed calmly” in life.
4. Pursue a healthy sense of leisure.
5. Sundays should be holidays. “Sunday is for family,” he said.
6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people.
7. Respect and take care of nature.
8. Stop being negative. “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem.”
9. Respect others’ beliefs. The church should grow by attraction, not proselytising, the Pope said.
10. Work for peace. “We are living in a time of many wars,” he said, and “the call for peace must be shouted.” (thehigherlearning.com)

• • •

Virtual career fairs might sound dubious but the online textbook site Chegg builds a solid case for them being the wave of the future. At most college host career fairs, attendance tends to be limited to employers nearby. Chegg bills a virtual fair as speed dating with recruiters from all over. Students fill out profiles explaining who they are and what they are looking for in a career, recruiters specify the type of employee they are seeking. Then, in an eight-minute “chat,” recruiters and students meet, ask questions and share information – just like a regular career fair. Students can register with LinkedIn.http://goo.gl/qPQXSi

• •

The website CollegeMatchmaker has compiled a list of  “111 Ridiculously Awesome Full Tuition Scholarships.” I posted it in my education tips Facebook group (facebook.com/groups/156018021085044/) and one member quickly replied that her sister had gone to college for free thanks to one of the scholarships listed. It is absolutely worth a look if you have a high school student. http://tinyurl.com/l78nrw4

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According to the ACT (testing company), the greater your academic achievements, the farther from home you are likely to attend college. The study examined ACT scores of more than a million students in the high school graduating class of 2012, revealing that as scores went up, so did students’ distance from home. (Other studies have revealed a similar pattern for SAT scores.) They couldn’t say exactly why except that the higher your score, the more choices you have and the study also found that the higher the parents’ level of education, the farther away students went to attend college. http://goo.gl/qOg8sK

• • •

While there is a lot of talk about how many international students now attend U.S. colleges, the fact is that currently only 4 percent of U.S. undergraduates are international students. At elite colleges, the undergraduate percentage is higher. For example, at UC Berkeley, almost 20 percent of the freshman class is comprised of international students. http://online.wsj.com/ (Source: UC Berkeley 2013-14 Common Data Set)

• • •

If you continue to have questions about how the new Common Core State Standards are changing classroom instruction for your child, you might want to listen to the four-part National Public Radio series on reading in the age of the Common Core. The series highlights changes†in reading instruction brought on by the Common Core State Standards: an increased emphasis on evidence-based reading, writing and speaking; increased use of nonfiction; and a the effort to get students reading more “complex texts.” http://goo.gl/tmznSg

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My post was much delayed this month so I’ll be out with another one over the holidays.  Please go to www.educationroundupnational.com to sign up to receive these posts by email. And please forward this email to any friends who might enjoy it.  Happy Holidays!

Roundup XXII

If you are frustrated by your middle schooler’s obsession with computer games, here are five games that a panel of educational experts think have the most potential to educate, engage and empower students: DragonBox, Scribblenauts, Portal 2, Gamestar Mechanic, Minecraft. You can read about these games and others at the great non-profit Institute of Play web site at instituteofplay.org.

In honor of Digital Citizenship Week, here is a helpful visual for students to keep in mind regarding their digital profile (on Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc.). Think….

T – is it true

H – is it helpful

I – is it inspiring

N – is it necessary

K – is it kind.

Hmm, not bad tips for grown-ups too. My least favorite of the new social media sites might just be ask.fm. This digital question and answer site is a haven for bullies who can post anonymously. Ask your teen about it.

I just came across a listing of 50 great resources for the parents and teachers of gifted and talented students (teachthought.com): organizations, blogs, twitter feeds, articles and more. The complete list is here.

Ninety percent of K-12 schools in the U.S. don’t teach computer science, says Code.org. By the end of 2013, it wants to flip that stat around so that 90 percent do teach it. The nonprofit wants 10 million students to participate in the “Hour of Code” during Computer Science Education Week Dec. 9 to 15. Free participation kits are available for schools, community organizations and even local officials.

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The website “Dear Teen Me” made me laugh and cry. Famous authors and other notables submit letters to their teen self. They are all beautifully written and many are sure to strike a chord. dearteenme.com.

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There is a controversial article in the new Harper’s magazine that contends algebra cannot be learned by everyone — that it just can’t.  And that U.S. schools should stop jamming algebra II, in particular, down every student’s throat. The author interviews experts, many of whom are math teachers, who say forcing all teens to take algebra and algebra 2 is disastrous and unfair to students, most of whom, the author contends, will never need that particular math in their lives. (tinyurl.com/lf7cg9o)

•••

A recent article in the Atlantic Magazine says that ninth grade is the most important year in high school. Educators are finding that how freshman year goes determines whether a young person will move on or drop out of school. I was surprised to learn that nationwide, ninth-graders have the lowest GPA, the most missed classes, the majority of failing grades and get in more trouble than any other high-school grade level. Researchers have found that repeating ninth grade can have terrible results in terms of a child’s motivation and self-esteem and a disproportionate number of ninth-graders who are held back drop out.

What is the hottest job skill today? Translators and interpreters are expected to be two of the 15 fastest growing occupations in the nation (Department of Labor). There are projected to be 25,000 new jobs for interpreters (who focus on spoken language) and translators (who focus on written language), between 2010 and 2020. According to CNN, in the last week alone, roughly 12,000 jobs posted on Indeed.com included the word “bilingual.” In government jobs, being bilingual in Middle Eastern languages such as Arabic, Farsi and Pashto (Afghani) pays the best. In the private sector, employees bilingual in Scandinavian and Asian languages are the highest paid. Read more here.

Stanford Alumni Magazine recently devoted a few thousand words to “what it takes to get into Stanford” and after reading it, I feel slightly nauseous and still can’t tell you the answer. But it is an interesting and detailed look at the process at what is now the most selective university in America. You can read the entire article here.

Time Magazine’s Idea section recently suggested three things that schools can do to better help boys succeed. Quoted is psychologist Michael Thompson, who I think hits the nail on the head when he said, “Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools. Boys are treated like defective girls.” The three suggestions are:

• Bring back recess. They cite research that since the 1970s, schoolchildren have lost almost half of their unstructured outdoor play time, and that boys seem to react worse to “recess deprivation” than girls.

• Turn boys into readers. Find books that appeal to boys, have a male reading model and help parents support boys’ literacy.

• Encourage the young male imagination. Boys read, write and draw differently. Consider assignments from the point of view of boys.

Read the entire piece here.

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Did you know that you can adjust your iPhone or iPad settings to read all text to you (including choosing what kind of accent, speed, etc.)? You go to “setting” then “accessibility,” then “speak selection” and make your voice and speed selections. After you change the settings, you open a page of text (on Safari, email, anywhere) and highlight the text and click “speak.” I amused myself tremendously having an Irish voice read me my email this morning. Not only might this be terrific for struggling readers, but also to listen to documents while driving, etc.

•••

My new favorite website is litpick.com and it is perfect for students in grades 4 to 12 who love to read. The site is an online community that offers free electronic books. LitPick receives courtesy copies of new young-adult books from publishers and authors and makes these review copies available to students. As young reviewers, students are asked to offer their opinions of the books in anonymous book reviews posted on the site. This year, Litpick.com was named the best website for teaching and learning by the U.S. Librarians Society. The site is free for eBooks and $15 a year to get print books as well.

•••

I have lived in five different school districts since our youngest child was born and our children have attended public school, private school, boarding school, parochial school and Montessori. Having peeked under the covers of very different schools across the country, I am fascinated by case studies of successful initiatives at the district and school level. Earlier this fall, the nation’s 2013 Blue Ribbon schools were announced. These 286 elementary, middle and high schools offer promising ideas in very different settings. You can read one-page profiles of each school (including student demographics and exactly why the school was honored) at http://tinyurl.com/kl2geha.

SimCity has launched a new educational game for middle-school students called SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge. The game, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, is designed to engage students while developing real-world skills. Students play the role of mayor in a “real” city, where they must address issues such as reducing pollution while not ignoring other societal impacts such as maintaining employment levels and citizen happiness. Teacher dashboards provide data on student performance and feedback on results so teachers can assess performance in real time.

A company has invented facial recognition software called  Engage-Sense that applies algorithms to what the cameras have recorded during a lecture or discussion to interpret how engaged the students are. The camera captures if students were confused, bored, smiling, focused or looking around. Teachers can then be provided with a report, based on the facial analysis, to learn what aspects of the class were most and least engaging. They expect that in five years, teachers all over the country will be using it. Learn more here.

I have spent countless hours compiling a list of dozens of free (or very low cost) summer programs for students ages 12 to 25. These are free programs overseas or cool offerings on college campuses, with accommodations included. Many of the best ones have deadlines coming up in the weeks ahead so it is not too early to start thinking about next summer,  educationroundupnational.com.

•••

One terrific program I included is for students ages 15 to 18 (and for teachers) that provides them with as three weeks in Singapore and Malaysia as well pre-and post trip enrichment and training. The American Youth Leadership Program with Singapore and Malaysia is sponsored by the U.S. State Dept. and is completely free. The deadline to apply is Sunday, Dec. 1 – culturalvistas.org/aylp/info.htm. Why am I so excited about these kinds of programs? I have seen first hand how they have changed the lives of several Sonoma students.

•••

If your child loves the “Captain Underpants” books, you might want to read the scathing review of the books’ misogyny here.  It is pretty compelling.

•••

Our children need it and perhaps we do as well … SelfControl is a free app that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. You set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click “Start.” Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites – even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

•••

I love the premise of the book “Raising Children that Other People Like to be Around” because when it comes right down to it, that is really the end goal. Author Richard Greenberg organizes the process around five basic behavioral “musts” based on the word SMART:

1. Set an Example – Behave as though everything you do will be mimicked by your child – because it will be! And reflect on the examples set for you by your own parents, and discuss them with your spouse or partner.

2. Make the Rules – Decide what values you think are most important to you and your parenting partner. Remember that “rules are the arms in which your children can embrace themselves.” Explain why you created a rule, and the logic behind it, so that your children understand that we weren’t just making them up for fun.

3. Apply the Rules – Once you’ve decided what’s important, you have to stick to your guns. Little children will test boundaries, which is their job. By saying “no” together with an explanation of your reasons, you show them you care. Remember also that every rule you create is a rule you have to enforce and too many rules make life very complicated.

4. Respect Yourself – This one is a biggie. You need to lead with the confidence that generates admiration and respect. Your children are passengers in your cab. You should be far better informed about the local roads than they are. And even if you’re not, you need to make them think you are, for their comfort and safety.

5. Teach in All Things – If you see your child as an “Adult In Training” and you know it’s your job to be their teacher, then everything you do will be informed by an underlying lesson. Once our kids catch on, they begin to see the lessons themselves.

•••

If you are unclear about the new Common Core State Standards and why your school district is excited about them, there is a very clever three-minute video worth watching at commoncoreworks.org.

•••

Why are so few girls interested in computer science? It is so puzzling to me. A new report says although 57 percent of all undergraduate degrees are earned by women, women account for only 14 percent of the computer science degrees at major research universities. And furthermore, this number is falling – it was 37 percent in 1985. Today, only 0.4 percent of female college freshmen say they intend to major in computer science.  Read more here.

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Because it is that time of year, I’m offering forth yet another college ranking… this one focused on affordability, future earnings, diversity and student activities (Newsweek’s The Daily Beast). Kudos to California for snagging five spots in the top 15. There are a few names that will surprise you. From #1-15: Yale University, MIT, Stanford University, Harvard University, Columbia University, Princeton University, U.C. Berkeley, Williams College, U. Virginia, U. Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, Rice University, Cal Tech, Pomona College and U.C.L.A. The list goes to 200 here.

What should parents be looking for in a preschool? Tips from Ed Source and the Stanford Children’s Center suggest: 1. Look for signs of purposeful teaching – ask what the teacher is doing and why. 2. Inquire whether teachers have a B.A. or higher, though only a Child Development Associate Permit is required in California. 3. Gravitate toward well-organized, clean, childproofed classrooms with clear sight lines. Low shelves should be well-stocked with creative play items. 4. Ask teachers how they track and communicate child development and screen for potential problems. Ask for the school’s curriculum. 5. Look for engaged teachers and children who show sign of trust and cooperation. Read more here.

Watching movies and educational videos with the captions switched on improves student comprehension, recall and class discussion according to researchers at SF State. Captions are frequently used for English language learners and students with learning disabilities but this study found captions beneficial to all students.  Read more here.

New data out suggests that the teaching profession is attracting “a more academically successful group of people compared to previous years,” according to researchers at the University of Washington. They found that more teachers have their master’s degrees (26 percent in 2008 versus 17 percent in 1993) and the average SAT score for a first year teacher climbed slightly from just below the national average (45th percentile) to the national average 50th percentile. http://educationnext.org/gains-in-teacher-quality/

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