Tag Archives: schools

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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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.