Treat Yourself to Scholarships for Studying Spooky Subjects

Treat Yourself to Scholarships for Studying Spooky Subjects

On Halloween, goblins and ghouls begin peeking around corners, walking down sidewalks and knocking on doors asking, “Trick-or-Treat?” But even if you’re too old for trick-or-treating, a love of things associated with Halloween can pay off – and not just at the end of October.

There are several college scholarships for subjects that fit right in with jack-o’-lanterns, vampires and other spooky things.

In 1986, four young men in Delaware were inspired by a nearby physics class that had challenged its students to a pumpkin throwing contest. They decided to pick up their own pumpkins and start tossing. The annual event became known as “Punkin Chunkin,” and it escalated quickly to include machinery and all sorts of other pumpkin-launching tools.

John Ellsworth won the first year’s contest with a 136-foot toss. In 2012, winning teams tossed pumpkins more than 3,000 feet, and the event has raised thousands of dollars for local scholarships.

To qualify for one of the Punkin Chunkin scholarships, you must be a senior student attending one of the accredited high schools in Sussex County, Del. You must also have registered for either the previous year’s Punkin Chunkin event or be registered for the current year’s.

Recipients must be studying “Chunkin-related fields,” as the organizers’ website puts it, such as mechanical technology, agriculture or engineering.

Students who are dedicated to creating one-of-a-kind costumes may be interested in a scholarship from the National Costumers Association. The association offers a scholarship targeted at students who are interested in studying theater or costume design while in college.

You must at least 17 years old and maintain a 2.75 GPA or higher in order to apply. The funding for this scholarship fluctuates annually, and so does the amount awarded in scholarships.

If you’re more interested in things that go “bump” in the night, perhaps studying bats will suffice, even if they may not be of the vampire variety. The Bat Conservation International organization has annual student research scholarships, where students may receive up to $5,000 for a one-year award.

Scholarships are awarded to current college or graduate students from all over the world. The scholarships are based on student’s interest in bat conservation and the ecosystems they affect worldwide, as well as research studies in areas such as bat roosting, bat eating behavior or solutions to bat nuisance issues.

Got a candy craving and an aptitude for science? You may want to take a look at the American Association of Candy Technologists to help satisfy your sweet tooth. The organization’s John Kitt Memorial Scholarship is a $5,000 scholarship that’s paid in two $2,500 installments after the winner is enrolled in college.

The scholarship is aimed at students who are interested in confectionery science and research and are dedicated to helping the confectionery industry advance worldwide. Scholarships just don’t get sweeter than this.

If experimenting in laboratories is more up your alley, consider a scholarship from the American Society for Clinical Pathology in conjunction with Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics. For the past 10 years, these scholarships have helped students accomplish their dreams and attend college, while focusing on degrees in medical laboratory science or other areas of laboratory medicine.

There are four different kinds of scholarships, ranging from $500-$2,000, each with different monetary values and criteria.

No matter what you’re interested in, there is a scholarship out there that fits what you’re looking to study. Whether that’s something creepy and crawly, or a sweet treat, there are plenty of opportunities out there to find the help you may need to pursue your education.

American teachers may be getting smarter

American teachers may be getting smarter

by  Joy Resmovits

Starting Teacher SAT Scores Rise As Educators Face Tougher Evaluations

American teachers may be getting smarter.

Still, scrutiny of their work and cries to overhaul the education system intensify.

The education reform group National Council on Teacher Quality, and Harvard University’s Education Next journal on Wednesday each released a paper about the state of the teaching force. The paper by National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based think tank that has long advocated for rigorous teacher evaluations, provides an overall look at how states are evaluating teachers and using the results. The Education Next paper, authored by the University of Washington’s Dan Goldhaber and Joe Walch, investigated the academic qualifications of new teachers and found that average SAT scores have increased significantly over the last decade.

Taken together, the articles show an evolving workforce that raises questions about the often extreme hand-wringing over teacher quality. “Although teachers in the U.S. are more likely to be drawn from the lower end of the academic achievement distribution than are teachers in selected high-performing countries, the picture is a bit more nuanced than the rhetoric suggests,” Goldhaber and Walch wrote.

Advocates who have supported the evaluations highlighted by National Council on Teacher Quality continue pushing states to take them further — higher SAT scores or otherwise. “The SAT data is an encouraging sign, and we should keep heading in that direction, as it seems to be an indicator of whether a teacher can actually produce gains,” said Eric Lerum, a vice president at StudentsFirst, the Sacramento-based lobbying and advocacy group started by former Washington schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. “But it doesn’t tell us enough — Goldhaber says it’s not conclusive enough that the trend is reversing — and we’re still not taking enough top-shelf talent and getting them into teaching. We need to use the data we do have and take a comprehensive approach toward improving teacher quality.”

Over the last few decades, in the wake of an alarming 1983 report about the state of American education known as “A Nation At Risk,” policymakers sought to increase the accountability of schools and teachers to keep the U.S. competitive with international peers. This outcry came with concerns that increased career opportunities for women meant fewer teachers with stellar academic qualifications. Out of those fears came No Child Left Behind, the sweeping George W. Bush-era law that required regular standardized tests for students, and determined consequences based on those scores. At the time, some education experts speculated that these changes would dissuade would-be teachers from entering the classroom.

That theory, Goldhaber said, is likely false. “We didn’t find any evidence that the smarter — as measured by SAT scores — teachers were shying away from NCLB subjects,” he said. “There’s a fair amount of concern, but not much evidence about high-stakes policies driving people out of teaching.” (The paper, though, did not look at new teachers in the current era of revamped teacher evaluations — a form of more individualized accountability and higher stakes.)

Goldhaber and Walch looked at teachers beginning their education careers from 2001 to 2008, and found that the average SAT scores of first-year teachers in 2008 was 8 percentile rank points higher than those of new teachers in 2001. That boost makes first-year teachers in 2008 more likely to come from the top-scoring half of SAT takers — unlike their predecessors. (The paper, though, did not look at new teachers after 2008 — so it doesn’t account for people who started after the more rigorous evaluations took effect.)

“What may appear to be small changes … they don’t look small to me,” Goldhaber said.

teacher sat

It’s unclear whether the shift is sustainable, or whether it was driven by the recession, which may have inspired job-seekers to settle for stable teacher jobs rather than riskier employment with higher pay.

Tim Daly, president of TNTP, a group that provides alternative certification for teachers, agreed that the shifts are meaningful. “More qualified people were more likely to enter teaching and less qualified teachers were less likely to enter teaching. It’s not that there were just more vacancies,” he said. “The significance for the quality of the workforce and student outcomes is less clear: SAT scores alone don’t explain variation between teachers.”

Meanwhile, teachers face tougher evaluations than ever, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality report. “The number of states that have moved so far forward on teacher evaluation is just striking — more than 40 states now require student achievement to be a factor in teacher evaluations is very different from where we were before,” Sandi Jacobs, the group’s vice president, said in an interview. “There’s been a real transformation.”

teacher evaluations

As of September, 35 states and Washington, D.C., require schools to evaluate teachers based on student achievement — in many cases, on standardized tests, according to the report. Forty-one states require the general use of student data in evaluations — up from 15 states in 2009. Eight of these states use evaluations to determine licensure advancement.

National Council on Teacher Quality attributed the rapid pace of change to the Race to the Top, the federal government competition that had recession-addled states vie for money in exchange for implementing education reforms, such as teacher evaluations.

But states aren’t moving quickly to link these evaluations to other areas that could improve teaching, Jacobs said. Districts are still using seniority, and not performance, to determine layoffs.

“Just measuring teachers is a first step, but what are you going to do with that data?” Jacobs asked. “In some places, states are moving on evaluation because they’ve been incented to do that through waivers and other mechanisms and aren’t really thinking about what they’re going to do with that data.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union, decried the findings.

“This report shows that teacher evaluation systems in 35 states and the District of Columbia are driven by tests, requiring that student achievement results be a significant, or even the most significant, factor in teacher evaluations,” Weingarten said in a statement. “Yet only 20 states and the District of Columbia require that teacher evaluation results be used to inform and shape professional development for all teachers. We have to stop test-centric evaluations and build systems that will actually improve teaching and learning.”

How Poverty Molds the Brain

How Poverty Molds the Brain

Groundbreaking research nearly two decades ago linking a mother’s educational background to her children’s literacy and cognitive abilities stands out among decades of social science studies demonstrating the adverse effects of poverty.

Now new research conducted at Northwestern University has taken that finding in a neuroscientific direction: linking poor processing of auditory information in the adolescent brain to a lower maternal educational background.

“These adolescents had noisier neural activity than their classmates, even when no sound was presented,” said Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology and Communication Sciences at Northwestern and corresponding author of the study.

In addition, the neural response to speech for the adolescents from a lower maternal educational background was erratic over repeated stimulation, with lower fidelity to the incoming sound.

“Think about the neural noise like static in a radio — with the announcer’s voice coming in faintly,” Kraus said.

Maternal education acted as a proxy for socioeconomic status for the study. Adolescents were divided into two groups, according to whether their mothers had a high school education or less or had completed some post-secondary schooling.

Not only did the adolescents from a lower maternal educational background have neural responses to speech sounds that were nosier, more variable and represented the input signal weakly, but their performances on tests of reading and working memory also were poorer.

“The impoverished brain: Disparities in maternal education affect the neural response to sound” will be published Oct. 30 in the Journal of Neuroscience. Its authors are Erika Skoe, assistant professor of speech, language and hearing sciences at the University of Connecticut; Jennifer Krizman, a doctoral student in Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory; and Kraus, also the director of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab.

This study builds on evidence that children from low-income families experience a type of auditory impoverishment. The landmark study by Hart and Risley (1995) revealed that children in high-income families are exposed to 30 million more words than children from families on welfare. This reduction in the quality and quantity of language input, along with greater exposure to unstructured sound such as ambient noise, may be affecting how the brain represents auditory information.

In urban populations, income and amount of noise exposure are known to be correlated. Consistent with the idea that noisy auditory environments increase neural noise, the new Journal of Neuroscience study found that the adolescents from the lower maternal educational group have increased neural activity in the absence of sound input.

According to the study, “Neural models indicate that when the input to a neuron is noisier, the firing rate becomes more variable, ultimately limiting the amount of sensory information that can be transmitted.”

“If your brain is creating a different signal each time you hear a sound, you might be losing some of the details of the sound,” said Skoe, lead author of the study. “Losing these details may create challenges in the classroom and other noisy settings.”

The new research conducted at Northwestern contributes to a recent wave of neuroscientific research demonstrating that sociocultural factors influence brain structure and function.

Another recently published study from the Kraus lab showed that inconsistent neural responses to sounds relate to poor reading but that by acoustically augmenting the classroom, neural responses became more stable.

“Modifying the auditory world for a particular student, even if just for a portion of the day, may improve academic performance and fine-tune how sound is automatically encoded in the brain,” Skoe said.

Ongoing work in Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory is investigating whether auditory enrichment in the form of music education and other school-based activities can offset the negative impact of an impoverished acoustic environment.

For the new study, brain activity of Chicago Public School adolescents, almost all ninth-graders, was assessed both in response to and in the absence of auditory input. The nervous system’s responses to speech sounds were observed through passive electrophysiological recordings, with students grouped according to the highest educational level achieved by their mothers.

The responses reflect activity from a communication hub within the central nervous system that provides a snapshot of sensory, cognitive and reward circuits that are engaged to process sound. These fundamental, automatic responses to sound reflect past and ongoing sensory experiences and relate to linguistic and cognitive function.

The collection protocol for “the impoverished auditory brain” lasted roughly 20 minutes, during which participants sat comfortably watching a self-selected subtitled movie, while the brain response to speech syllables was passively collected.

The syllables were presented at a rapid rate to the right ear through an earphone placed in the ear canal. The left ear remained unblocked, making the movie sound track audible yet not intense enough to mask the stimulus.

The syllables chosen are common to many languages of the world, and their acoustic characteristics are perceptually challenging.

In addition, IQ assessments for the students were collected, and they were administered a standardized, age-normed test battery of reading ability and executive function (working memory). Previous work has revealed that the neurobiological systems mediating higher order functions such as language, memory and executive function are especially sensitive to disparities in socioeconomic status.

“By studying socioeconomic status within a neuroscientific framework, we have the potential to expand our understanding of the biological signatures of poverty,” Kraus concluded. “And a better understanding of how experiences shape the brain could inform educational efforts aimed at closing the socioeconomic achievement gap.”

7 Things Sex Education Should’ve Taught Us But Didn’t

7 Things Sex Education Should’ve Taught Us But Didn’t

By Mark Manson

It’s 2013 and two things are abundantly clear:

  1. Sex education matters, and
  2. Cultures that believe sex is shameful screw everything up.

The statistics are glaring. More pragmatic approaches to teenage sexuality (i.e., “Hey, you’re going to do what you’re going to do, but here’s how to be responsible about it”) outperform strict abstinence/religious forms of sex education (i.e., “Don’t have sex until you’re married, or else”) by almost every statistical measurement including teenage pregnancies, abortions and HIV infections.

By the way, the United States is the worst offender in all of those categories. And we all know how comfortable we are with our own sexualities. (Hint: We’re not at all.)

The recent government-funded “abstinence only” programs have been found to actually increase teen pregnancy and STI rates in states where they’re implemented, proving, yet again, that teenagers will always do exactly what you tell them not to and screw themselves up in the process.

Nope, purity rings don’t do a damn thing. Biology wants what biology wants. Yet, only 11 US states require sex education to be based on medical science and most other states require no sex education at all.

If I learned anything from being part of the dating advice industry for eight years, it’s that most young people are woefully unprepared, both socially and emotionally, to handle the stress and confusion that comes with navigating a healthy sex life.

Here are seven things we should have learned as teenagers, but didn’t:

1. There’s more to sex than biology

Sex education, as it stands today, is more or less diagram after diagram of the biological ins and outs (and back ins, oh baby!) of human reproductive behavior. It’s a bodily fluid road map, a glorified anatomy class, with an “Oh yeah, and use protection!” tacked on for good measure.

Don’t get me wrong, some of this information is useful. We do need to know how infections occur, how pregnancy works, and, of course, where to stick it in. But never in the heat of passion have I ever thought about my vas deferens or the quality of her uterine lining. It just never seems that relevant in the moment.

Humans are uniquely sexual creatures. We screw each other far more often and in far more elaborate ways than pretty much every other species on the planet.

That’s because for humans sexual activity is more than a mere biological urge, it has psychological significance and social meaning. We screw for pleasure. We screw for recreation. We screw for passion. We screw for revenge. We screw nice people and mean people, friends and enemies, sexy people and ugly people. We screw because we’re happy and because we’re sad. We screw because we’re bored. We screw because we feel alone. We screw because we’re in love.

And yes, we screw to make babies, too. Although in the developing world, that’s rarely the primary motivation these days. So why is it all sex education focuses on?

Sex ed should account for the recreational, social and emotional reasons for sex and their consequences. It should discuss the interpersonal meaning of intercourse, setting clear expectations and boundaries, communicating desires, dealing with feelings of shame and awkwardness, and of course, being responsible about protection and privacy.

Sex can be amazing. Some of the best moments of one’s life can happen engorged in someone else. So let’s talk about it.

This sounds so obvious when you say it. Yet no one seems to say it.

2. How to respect personal boundaries
Shutterstock

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a lengthy description about the sexual shame that goes on in our culture and how it causes men and women to hide their intentions and desires from one another, which then leads to all sorts of communication breakdowns (or worse) later on in the interaction.

A huge component of this is consent. Consent in sexual situations is usually taught as, “If a woman says no, it means no.” That’s nice, but it completely glosses over the complexity of the issue. It continues to frame sex in a “Women get to decide, you have to convince them,” perspective. This reinforces the perception that men must somehow prove themselves to women and women must somehow be “won over” by a man to have sex with him.

This isn’t consent, it’s mutually reinforced manipulation.

(For deeper explanation, check out: How Disney Ruined Sex for Everybody)

Sexual intentions and desires should be stated clearly from the get-go by both parties. And I don’t just mean, “I want to have sex with you,” but every step of the way. “I’m attracted to you, I want to go out with you,” “I want to go home with you,” and so on. Kids should be taught that there’s nothing shameful about saying “yes” or “no” and that they should not be ashamed nor shame someone else for saying either. This is regardless of gender, orientation or reason.

All personal desires are valid just as all rejections of personal desires by another are valid. Both should be respected. It’s as simple as that.

3. Sex is not a reflection of your value as a person.

But to get to this place, sex must be removed from its pedestal as an badge of either honor or shame in our culture. As long as boys are shamed for not succeeding in getting laid and girls are shamed for succeeding in getting laid too often, then boys will continue to have an incentive to manipulate girls into situations where consent is ambiguous and girls will continue to have incentive to manipulative boys into situations where they feel unworthy or powerless.

Nobody wins in this arrangement. Everybody gets frustrated. People lie. Some people get raped. And it’s no coincidence that sexual violence and divorce are highest in countries where this culture of sexual shame persists. When your value as a human being is being judged based on the sex you’re having or not having or the marriage that you have or don’t have, then it’s easy to feel justified in saying and doing some messed up stuff to people of the opposite gender to get your way.

4. Different sexual orientations are natural

No-brainer here, but worth repeating for anybody still living in 1957. Homosexuality is natural and there’s nothing immoral about it (or experimenting with it for that matter).

We now know that homosexuality is likely related to pre-natal hormones and may possibly even have some sort of genetic basis. It’s natural. It’s seen all over the animal kingdom. It’s been cataloged throughout all of human history cross-culturally.

The concept of sexual orientation itself is a relatively recent invention of Western culture. And whoever came up with the idea deserves to be punched. Sexual orientation is a spectrum and people can oscillate across that spectrum over the course of their lives.

And as they often do, recent psychological studies have shown what’s been blindingly obvious to the rest of us forever: that homophobic men repress their own arousal to homoerotic stimuli. I mean, didn’t Freud cover this already? What we hate in others is what we’re ashamed of in ourselves.

Bi-curiosity and gender experimentation are common urges in both genders. It doesn’t make anyone weird or socially unacceptable. Get over it.

5. Where the damn clitoris is and what it’s for

Seriously. Do you know how old I was when I finally figured this out? Come on! Women like orgasms too.

6. How men and women experience sex differentlyShutterstock

OK, this is the part of the article where I piss off a bunch of feminists. But there are three things which are true about male/female sexualities:

  1. Men and women have innate differences in how they experience their sexualities.
  2. This should be obvious to anyone who’s ever looked at naked people.
  3. These differences, despite existing, don’t really mean anything.

The truth is that trying to cram an ideology that men and women are exactly the same in all ways down people’s throats is just as fascist and shitty as forcing the ideology of conventional gender roles and stereotypes on everyone as well.

People are different. Men and women are also different. These things are not mutually exclusive.

We know men and women are different. We know this from a wide range of neurological and psychological studies. We know from studying how gays and lesbians interact with one another. We know from primatology and the obvious dimorphism of our species. And we know from the subjective accounts of transsexuals who take hormones to change their endocrinology.

Sorry to belabor this point, but I always get flamed by a dozen angry people every time I mention this. So this is for them. Men and women differ in some ways and both genders should be treated with equal respect for those differences. (Why do people make this so complicated?)

That in and of itself should be taught in sex ed. But what should also be taught is how men and women’s sex drives differ, how women are more sexually fluid in their desires, how men are more physical and visually oriented in arousal, and how, on average (across populations, across cultures, and in female-to-male transsexuals), they usually want to have sex more often and with a wider variety of partners.

There’s nothing inherently right or wrong with these differences. These differences are not a moral justification for unethical behavior. If I’m born with big arms, that doesn’t give me the right to go punch people. If a man is born with a high sex drive, that doesn’t give him a right to force himself on women. But it also doesn’t make him a pervert, horndog, womanizer, monster, or rapist in waiting. Seriously, why is this so complicated?

7. Great relationships mean great sex

The thing many sex ed classes say about the dynamics of sexual relationships is, “Wait until you’re married,” — as if putting a ring on your finger will magically resolve all insecurities you may have around your sexuality.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It’s almost like a broken record how many people you hear lament that they wish they had dated around more before they got married (see: my parents).

 The obligatory “Happy Couple” picture. Every blog post about relationships needs one. / Shutterstock

But the point is that if sex ed classes can dry out teenage ears for months on end going on about fallopian tubes, zygotes and X and Y chromosomes, why can’t they push the scientific knowledge of romantic relationships on everyone as well? One could argue that’s even more important.

What about attachment theory, emotional needs and the differences between love, lust and commitment? What about the Neo-Freudian explanation for romance? What about dealing with the anxiety of meeting someone attractive?

Yeah, that would have been helpful. Oh well… TC mark

5 Reasons the Common Core Is Ruining Childhood

5 Reasons the Common Core Is Ruining Childhood

by Katie Hurley

My daughter has four tests this week. Week after week she has at least four tests, one of them a high-pressure timed math factor test. If she gets more than one answer wrong, she repeats the same test the following week (which, by the way, is a great way to start an unhealthy competition among classmates). Some weeks, if they happen to finish a unit in social studies, science, or math, they also have a unit test. So now we’re up to five.

What’s the big deal? She’s 6-years-old. This is first grade we’re talking about. For the first couple of weeks of school, it actually wasn’t a big deal. She’s never taken a test before, so there was no fear of incorrect answers or failure. As the daughter of a musician and a psychotherapist, she’s actually one of the lucky ones. There is no pressure to perform, academically or otherwise, in this house. We believe in creativity, low stress, and happiness.

Sadly, a few weeks into school she somehow learned that tests and grades hold some kind of larger meaning. Since she didn’t get it here, she definitely got it there.

Education in the public schools has changed. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes change means keeping up with things like technology, teaching kids to think, and updating the textbooks.

But the change brought upon public education by the Common Core Standards? That’s a whole different story. The people who made these decisions claim that the goal of the Common Core is to ensure that all children are college/career ready. It’s a nice sentiment. On some level, I get it. Even the playing field and teach the same core standards to kids across the board to narrow the gap. It makes sense on paper. But in practice? Not so much.

So far the Common Core appears to be putting fear into teachers — the very people who care about, teach, and protect our children. I happen to know a lot of teachers. These are people who stay up entirely too late each night planning fun and engaging lessons for the following day. These are people who call me to seek help for those hard-to-reach students. These are people who hide first grade students in cabinets and sing them songs to keep them calm while a shooter wreaks havoc on their campus.

Forget about all of that. Today teachers are being forced to follow a script. They teach to tests and fear job loss if they don’t see the expected results.

The result of this test giving, job loss fearing style of teaching is written all over the faces of the little kids caught in the transition. The people behind the Common Core might think that they are ensuring college/career readiness, but what they are really ensuring is a generation of anxious robotic children who can memorize answers but don’t know how to think.

Check out these five reasons why the Common Core is ruining childhood:

Increased stress:

Yes, tests and quizzes are part of school, but the pressure to perform is very high right now. Stress trickles down. When teachers are under stress, kids internalize it.

With this hyper-focus on the core areas of learning and the constant testing to ensure that the material is being memorized (I mean understood, of course), kids are constantly under pressure to perform. Add a trickle down stress factor to that and kids begin to fall apart. Anxiety disorders among children are already on the rise. Do we really want to see those statistics skyrocket?

Creativity is dead:

Learning has always included textbooks and spelling tests at the elementary school level. That’s part of the deal. But it used to be that kids were given the opportunity to tap into their creative brains. I wrote my first “hardcover” book in second grade. I still remember how confident I felt when my little story about a witch evolved into an actual book. Those were the days.

Busywork is the name of the game with the Common Core. Kids need to write and rewrite spelling words and sentences until their hands practically fall off. They need to correct sentences that they didn’t write because they don’t really have the time to come up with their own sentences. Homework includes work packets with more of the same. And don’t forget to study for those tests!

Forget about problem solving, group work, and thinking outside the box, these kids need to memorize the core curriculum first. It’s as if creativity holds no merit. Are you familiar with Steve Jobs? There are people who do exactly what they have to do to get by, and there are people who work harder and end up changing the world. Don’t we want to inspire kids to be thought leaders and world changers?

Inadequate time to socialize:

You know what’s really taken a hit in recent years? Recess. Some schools don’t have it at all. Recess is when kids truly practice social skills. They take turns. They negotiate. They initiate friendships. They learn to cope with disappointment. Sometimes they work together. Sometimes they don’t. But either way, they learn to work it out. But not if they don’t have recess.

Poor eating habits and insufficient exercise:

You can’t turn on the TV or open a magazine without hearing about obesity in America these days. It’s a problem. And yet, a school lunch is often 15-20 minutes long, forcing kids to wolf down food before the bell rings. So much for listening to hunger cues and chatting with friends — there is no time for that.

And then there’s PE. Some school districts have completely cut physical education due to budget issues. With little recess and no PE, kids are not getting enough exercise.

No time to decompress:

Kids need downtime. There is a lot of talk about over-scheduling and the stress that results from too much going and not enough resting. But kids today are faced with a lot of homework. There are third graders with three hours of homework each night. And that doesn’t account for long-term projects.

Even if you do manage to under-schedule your kids, many of them have to come right home and do their homework right up to that soccer practice or risk missing recess the next day (if they even have recess). Where is the downtime in that scenario?

It’s time to rethink the Common Core. Stress is dangerous and impacts physical and emotional health. It’s no way to live, and it’s no way to raise our children.

Incidentally, can anyone tell me what kind of career requires people to spit out the answers to 20 math problems in two minutes or less?

3 Ways Parents Can Help Teachers

3 Ways Parents Can Help Teachers

by Chris Crouch

Regardless of where you live in the United States, educating our children is an issue that is probably a part of the daily news cycle. Whether it’s a new state or national learning standards, such as the Common Core State Standards, or reforms to teacher preparation and evaluations, or the condition of our schools and technological structure, education is undergoing an immense change.

To ensure that our children receive the best education we have to offer, we as parents have some obligations to our kids and to educators.

Let me start by saying that I am an educator and a parent. I work with students every day and then come home and deal with the same issues and concerns of all parents who have school-age children. I’ve used my parenting experience to help me become a better teacher. I’m now asking parents to return the favor and consider the teacher perspective to help all of us become better parents.

Here are three points to consider:

1. Become Educated About Education

First, we all most do everything we can to become knowledgeable about the decisions that are being made about how we educate our kids. This requires all of us to understand the real issues and to be critical consumers of the information presented on all sides. There are a vast array of opinions about what should and should not be done in schools and understanding the basic principles of all these positions will help all of us move forward. Seeking a variety of viewpoints will not only educate you about what the conversations are in Education, but more importantly, you will show yourself as a critical consumer, an active participant, and life-long learner. These attributes are essential to ensuring a successful life for our kids. So, not only are you able to make more informed decisions about your child’s education, but you also make yourself a role model for your kids. What parent wouldn’t like for our kids to see us in that light?

2. Forget Your Student Experience

Think about your school experience. Was it good? Difficult? Pleasurable? Good at math? Awful at history? Your answer to these questions greatly determines how you view education, and even more urgently, how your children perceive it as well.

The interesting dilemma regarding education is that we have all experienced it. We were all students and have had a set of experiences that have shaped our schema about teaching and learning. This fact could be one of the greatest barriers to innovation in education. This paradox of “we have all experienced it, but none of us really know it” is difficult for each of us as parents to set aside.

As teachers, principals, schools and districts attempt to remake how we educate students, I encourage you to resist the temptation to pass your experiences onto your child. Allow for better and new experiences to enter into our classrooms and schools. Would you ask for the same medicines and procedures from the doctor that were done to your parents? Your grandparents?

3. Work With Your Teaching Professionals

The science of educating our young people has led to many innovations. New
technologies have allowed for more diverse experiences. I’m not suggesting parents should not question and be advocates for their children, but what I am suggesting is that the course of action that will yield the best results is to work hand-in-hand with the professionals.

Teacher, principals, school support staff, interventionists, and on and on, work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for every student. The relationship that exists between education professionals and parents can sometimes be counterproductive to the positive outcomes we all seek for our students. But, when parents understand the complexities of teaching and learning, set aside the paradigm of our own student experience, we can attempt to work together as a community, a village, to educate the children in our schools. It’s through cooperation, instead of hostility that will allow for more students to access the education they deserve to reach the future that they all desire.

Are there fads and trends in education? Sure. Do certain methods and practices work better for particular students? Of course. How we navigate through the maze of teaching and learning will shape the future. By adopting some of the habits of mind I’ve referred to, maybe we can all contribute to making a better tomorrow.

What’s most important to keep in mind, is that as a parent and teacher I want the same thing. As a parent, I want my own children to have happy, productive lives. I want to protect them from the dangers of the world. I want them to be better than I am.

As a teacher, I want the same exact thing for my students. And as Jerry Maguire so eloquently stated, “Help me, help you!”

Students: Take Control of Your Education

Students: Take Control of Your Education

by Bill Nye

Twenty years ago, I launched my television program Bill Nye the Science Guy, where I encouraged kids to appreciate and have fun with the process of science.

Now, I am working on a new, very different way for students to secure their college education.

For some, the traditional college experience of attending a university will work just fine. They have the resources to invest in their future and pay off any student loans they accumulate later, once they’re working and have a career. But for others who want to earn a degree, but are concerned about graduating with a mountain of debt, there are ways to earn credits that won’t break the bank.

Here are a few factors that contribute to that mountain of debt:

    Nearly 50 percent of high school students are not ready academically for college. So before they can take the courses required for their degree, they need to spend precious monetary resources on remedial classes just to get them up to speed.
    More than forty percent of America’s college students fail to graduate in six years.
    College tuition has been rising faster than inflation, causing student borrowing to increase and the default rate on federal students loans to be at its highest level in 14 years.

The solution for some may be to get a jumpstart in high school so they can save money in the long run. We want students to use those high school years to learn all they can, and consider working toward and earning college credits. Post-secondary enrollment options let students take college courses while in high school. These options are free to students and some are graduating from high school with a year or more of college under their belts. Not only do these students forgo the need to take remedial courses; they save money.

I recently partnered with SOPHIA.org — an education website that is taking the bold step of offering high school students free online college-level courses this fall so they can get a jumpstart on their college education. The site also offers free academic resources to help students get ready for college — everything from prep courses to free ACT test prep.

It’s about taking control of your educational path. Learning to the People!

A college education enhances your chances of, dare I say it, changing the world!

Here’s How Americans Stack Up Against Students In Other Countries

Here’s How Americans Stack Up Against Students In Other Countries

by Joy Resmovits

When it comes to math skills, Alabama performs like Armenia, Mississippi comes close to Dubai, Washington, D.C., performs like Ukraine, and Massachusetts is just one rung below Japan, according to a study released by the U.S. government Wednesday.

In science, Mississippi and Alabama look a lot like Kazakhstan, D.C. is close to Bahrain, and Massachusetts edges out Taiwan.

The study is the first to show where U.S. states would rank on the international exam Trends in International Math and Science Study, or TIMMS. Students in most U.S. states don’t take TIMMS, so U.S. statisticians approximated results using the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the largest U.S. comprehensive standardized test.

The results are mixed. Thirty-six U.S. states scored higher than the international math average of 500, out of a possible 1,000 points. On average, Americans would have scored 509 on math, according to the study. In science, 47 states would have performed higher than the average of 500. Three performed lower, and two were tied. Americans would have averaged a 525 on science. Massachusetts and Vermont topped the U.S. results in both subjects.

While the average U.S. scores look respectable, the result masks a deficit in U.S. performance. Students in even the highest-scoring states don’t match the top-performing countries.

“The bad news it that students in even our highest-performing states — Massachusetts and Vermont — cannot compete in math with students from the highest performing education systems, such as Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. He added: “The shortage of U.S. students testing at advanced levels underscores the importance of setting high standards, benchmarked to international performance — instead of dummying down expectations for student performance, as many states did during the last decade.”

The results come as many in the U.S. wonder just how bad American education is. So-called education reformers often use alarmist rhetoric along with international comparisons to make the case for overhauling schools. Their opponents tend to parse the data differently. Jack Buckley, who heads the government arm that produced the report, expects the same reaction to this latest puzzle piece. “People with a particular agenda will seize upon one dimension of the story,” he said.

The report had been scheduled to be released earlier in October, but was delayed by the government shutdown. Since 2011, the data wonks at the U.S. Education Department’s statistics arm, the National Center for Education Statistics, have tried statistical models to link the national and international exams. Buckley, the center’s director, said Wednesday that all that tinkering made him fairly confident that the reported state scores would reflect actual TIMSS test scores if U.S. students had taken the international test.

The TIMSS results exclude economic powerhouses like China and India, said Michael Petrilli, the executive vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning think tank. So the new study can make the U.S. look better than it really is in a broad international ranking.

Still, Petrilli said the results can be revealing for low-performing U.S. states. “It shows the not-so-developed countries that our states end up being in the company of,” Petrilli said. “It’ll be helpful rhetorically in states toward the bottom of the list where people are still trying to make the case for school reform. They can say, ‘Hey, we are on par with third-world countries and we can’t compete in the global economy. We’ve got to do much better.'”

The report also includes data on education spending. The U.S. spends 6 percent of its gross domestic product on education. That figure is similar to Ghana, Morocco, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia. It’s higher than Korea, Taiwan and Japan and double Kazakhstan. But it’s less than Tunisia and Norway.

Big Obstacle To New Common Core Teaching Standards

Common Core Reading Survey
Shows Slow Start To Teaching Shift

by Joy Resmovits 

NEW YORK — On a sunny summer afternoon, teachers fill a bright red auditorium in the basement of the Soho headquarters of Scholastic Inc., the educational publishing giant. In front of them, a coach uses a big screen to show them books.

Because of new learning standards called the Common Core, New York City educators attending the presentation will soon have to revamp how they teach reading. The coach, who wears glasses and a colorful floral blazer over dark capris and no-nonsense sandals, is trying to teach them how to do that. When teaching from a book like Yes Day! — about a boy whose parents give him one day that all his requests are answered with “yes” — the coach suggests that teachers following the Common Core ask students to notice patterns, or to create their own Yes Day! books.

Common Core standards, which aim to standardize curricula from state to state, require that each school day include more informational text, and that students react to readings by reaching conclusions based on evidence, instead of reflecting on what the material means for their personal lives. This mandate leaves some teachers puzzled.

“Students always rely on personal connections first,” one teacher asked, her hand raised. “What are your thoughts on making it more meaningful?”

The coach thought for a few seconds. “We’re going to have to be the ones to say this. We have best practices that are research-based,” she said, eliciting a chorus of mmm-hmms and nods. “We’re not going to abandon them because it’s not specifically stated in a Common Core standard.” She suggested layering that personal background on top of deep dives into texts, which she said she wouldn’t have done before the Common Core.

“It’s good to hear you say that,” the questioning teacher said, comforted.

The Common Core, adopted by 46 states, is supposed to help American students gain skills that translate into success after graduation. That means classroom debate on ideas based on evidence derived from reading. But with school budgets strapped and funds for teacher training squeezed, it’s hard to know whether teachers are actually changing their reading instruction.

On Wednesday, the right-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington-based think tank, released a report that tries to answer that question. Based on an extensive survey of a small but nationally representative sample of teachers last year, the group suggests that teachers mostly have not yet overhauled reading instruction in a way that will herald change. “In summary, these results reveal that many teachers have not yet confronted the new text complexity demands of the Common Core,” the report concludes.

For decades, American students — particularly the oldest — have struggled with reading improvements. Despite public battles over phonics, the federal government’s Reading First programming and No Child Left Behind, which mandated standardized testing,, bending the flat results on reading tests has proven nearly impossible. On the long-term National Assessment for Educational Progress, the performance of 17-year-olds is little better than it was in 1971.

In the introduction to the report, Fordham’s Chester Finn, a former Reagan administration official, and Kathleen Porter-Magee, theorize that readers stagnated because states set their own standards, and the complexity of reading texts declined. Over time, teachers began focusing on reading strategies, rather than deep analysis.

“In trying to improve reading comprehension, schools made a tragic mistake: they took time away from knowledge-building courses such as science and history to clear the decks for more time on reading skills and strategies,” they write. “And the impact, particularly on our most disadvantaged students whose content and vocabulary gap is so great, has been devastating.”

Porter-Magee and Finn said they see the Common Core as a potential remedy. It theoretically requires teachers to introduce more non-fiction, and reading and writing based on evidence instead of personal narratives. Teachers are supposed to assign readings based not on a student’s actual reading abilities, but rather on the reading level of that student’s school year.

According to the survey, 64 percent of elementary teachers are still assigning books based on individual abilities, as are two out of five math teachers. When picking novels, 51 percent of elementary school teachers reported doing so based on students’ reading levels regardless of grade, as did 40 percent of middle school teachers and 28 percent of high school teachers.

“It’s one thing to say these are shifts that the Common Core promotes, and it’s another thing to say they’re making their way into the classroom,” Porter-Magee said in an interview.

The survey found that 73 percent of elementary teachers and 56 percent of middle school teachers emphasize reading skills over text-centered lessons. High school teachers are split in half on this issue. The survey found the most popular texts were Because of Winn-Dixie, Bridge to Terabithia, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Martin Luther King’s “I Dreamed a Dream Speech.” The survey deemed the texts “slightly easier works.”

To conduct the survey, Fordham had the FDR Group survey 1,154 reading or English language arts teachers — 300 in elementary, 370 in middle school and 484 in high school — in February and March 2012. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, and are intended as a baseline. The next administration, in 2015, the authors write, will be a better indicator of Common Core progress, because implementation is now in its early phases.

The Best College Jobs… While You’re In College

The Best College Jobs… While You’re In College

by Scott Weingold

Any job you take during college is a good one.

That’s because it shows employers you can balance school and work at the same time.

The best college jobs, though, are the ones that help you land the career you want, right after you’ve graduated.

And if you really want to get a leg up on these jobs, be sure to make your way — sooner rather than later — to your school’s campus employment office.

Now onto four of the best college jobs, while you’re in college:

1. Work Study
While not usually the highest salary, work study positions have plenty of side benefits that make them amongst the most valuable jobs.

For one thing, they may very well come attached to your financial aid package; it can sometimes be difficult to tell exactly where your grants end and your salary begins.

Secondly, work study positions often pay much higher wages than similar positions would. You are often doing minimum-wage labor for a much higher check. Nothing wrong with grabbing a little extra value.

But, perhaps most importantly, work study jobs are just what they sound like — positions with enough down time that there are plenty of chances to study.

That’s valuable in innumerable ways — whether it helps you buckle down with your work while away from friends, or gives you spare time elsewhere to hold another job, or participate in extracurriculars — there’s little doubt that work study jobs bring wealth well beyond the size of a paycheck.

2. Dorm Aid
This is a new business, started at Harvard in 2004, and they’re looking to aggressively expand to other college campuses.

Here’s how it works. Dorm Aid helps students with various dorm-related activities — from laundry to cleaning — for, of course, a fee.

Should you decide to open up your local chapter, not only are you learning valuable skill sets — from entrepreneurial experience to from management, to bookkeeping — but your potential earnings are limitless.

Depending how much time and effort you put into your new franchise, you could potentially well exceed your initial funding efforts, and start saving away for trips or graduation. Nothing like owning a business to give you a taste of wealth.

And if dorm aid isn’t for you — there have been innumerable companies started by college students. There’s nothing wrong with trying out your own entrepreneurial spirit — so long as you aren’t relying on an immediate payoff.

3. Library Assistant
Library jobs have become somewhat competitive on college campuses, but by all means do inquire. After all, the pay is reasonable (often $10 – $12/hour), and of course the library is conducive to studying. In other words, “get paid to study” when you’re not doing things like shelving, sorting and organizing books, or whatever the position entails.

And if your college library isn’t hiring, be sure to check the local public libraries.

4. Career-Related
Again, be sure to visit your college employment office to learn about the opportunities in your desired field. There’s nothing like getting a placement in a favored department or related business.

You’ll learn how things work from the ground up. You’ll make contacts that may prove quite useful after graduation. And you’ll gain the sort of experience that only can be found through on-the-ground training.

With that sort of a leg up on the competition when you enter today’s tight job market, finding a job on your career path may be the difference between a head start, and a full-on derailment.