Tag Archives: research

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.

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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.