Thursday, October 28, 2010

Early Action Could Aid in Admission

It is a question on the minds of so many high school seniors at this time of year: How can you raise your chances of getting into your No. 1 college choice?

A report released Wednesday by an association of guidance counselors and admissions officers could be worth a look. It provides new evidence for those who believe that applying to college early in the academic year — or, more specifically, submitting applications under binding early-decision programs — increases the likelihood of acceptance.

Nearly three of every four students who applied last year under such programs, which are offered by many of the nation’s most selective colleges, were accepted, compared with just over half who applied to the same colleges in the main application round, according to the annual report, “The State of College Admission,” by the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

All told, the percentage accepted last year in the early-decision round, in which those accepted are compelled to withdraw all other applications and enroll, was 15 points higher than in the main phase. And that gap is rising, the authors said. In fall 2006, 61 percent, on average, were accepted early, compared with 53 percent in the regular pool.

Critics of early-admission programs argue that they represent a way for well-off and connected high school students to game the system. But colleges that offer them counter that the acceptance rates are often so high because the quality of students is particularly strong.

The report suggests that these figures “may rekindle debates about the effects of early-decision admission, particularly as it relates to access for underrepresented populations.”

To that end, the report provided new measurements of how the nation’s poorest high school graduates, as well as those who are black and Hispanic, continue to lag behind their peers in going to college. Only 58 percent of high school graduates from the bottom quarter nationally, as ranked by family income, went to college in 2008, compared with 87 percent from the highest-earning bracket, according to the report.

And while black and Hispanic students represented 33 percent of “the traditional college-aged population” in 2008, the report noted, only 25 percent of the students enrolled in colleges and universities that year were black or Hispanic.

If one figure in the report might give anxious applicants, and their parents, some solace, it is this: nearly one of every three colleges reported a decrease in applications in 2009, compared with the year before. That is the largest proportion of four-year colleges reporting such a drop in nearly 15 years. The authors said the sluggish economy could be a factor. More students may be applying to fewer colleges, as well as to community colleges and other two-year institutions.

Written by Jacques Steinberg for The New York Times

Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mobilizing Bystanders to Stop Bullying: 6 Teachable Skills to Stop a Bully

This past week I attended an educational conference where I had the pleasure of listening to nationally renowned speaker, Dr. Michele Borba. October is Bullying Awareness Month, therefore, I would like to draw attention to this crucial matter facing our nation's children.

Bullying is a learned behavior, and it is on the rise. One third of middle and high school students were bullied during the school year. Previous studies estimated the figure as one in seven students. Bullying appears to be far more intense, more frequent and beginning at younger ages than in years past.

Make no mistake: Bullying is a cruel, intentional act that is usually repeated, and can have serious impact on children. And every bullying episode really has three victims: the bullied (or target), the bully, and the bystander.

* The bullied or target: Repeated bullying can cause severe emotional harm, and can be so serious that some school-age victims have committed suicide.

* The bully: Nearly 60 percent of students identified as chronic bullies in middle school had at least one criminal conviction by the age of twenty-four.

* The bystander: New research suggests that students who witness their peers endure verbal or physical abuse could become as psychologically distressed, if not more so, by the events as the victims themselves.

And the consequences of bullying seem to finally be recognized. States are passing anti-bullying laws; schools are implementing zero-bullying policies; pediatricians are posting warning signs, and parents are increasing worried about their children’s safety. But in all our endeavors to stop peer cruelty, we are largely overlooking the most effective bully-reducing solution: mobilizing student bystanders to speak up. The fact it, students witness 85 percent of bullying episodes and usually during times when adults aren’t around to help.

Last week I reported to Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News that studies show that bystanders can do far more than just watch.Peers can reduce the audience that a bully craves, mobilize the compassion of witnesses to step in, support the victim, and be a positive influence in curbing a bullying episode. In fact, when bystanders intervene correctly, studies find they can cut bullying more than half the time and within 10 seconds. The key is that students must have the right guidance so they know when to step in, be taught how skills that offer the right kind of help, and know when to get aid.

This month I worked with NBC’s Dateline’s correspondent, Kate Snow on a special entitled, “The Perils of Parenting” (which aired Monday, September 13). Producers asked me to teach middle school students–when bullying peaks–specific bystander strategies. I developed the techniques after reviewing hundreds of research articles on the “Bystander Effect” and have trained hundreds of educators in how to use them with students. The moment that one twelve-year old girl stepped in and spoke up to a boy to stop bullying another child was extraordinary. She was calm, compassionate, courageous and glorious. She also used every one of the six bystander skills — and used them better than most adults. There also wasn’t a dry eye on the set–we all wiped away tears. [More about the bystander effect and that episode in a future blog].

Mobilizing the compassion of bystanders with specific bystander skills is largely overlooked in bullying prevention, but it may well be our best hope in creating safe and caring school climates. The best news is that child advocates and parents can teach kids these same bystander skills. Doing so empowers children with tools to stop cruelty, help victims, feel safer and reduce bullying. Here are the skills I shared on Dateline.

Dr. Borba’s Bystander Bully B.U.S.T.E.R. Strategies

Chances are that your child will witness bullying. Here are six strategies to teach so kids know how to intervene safely and when to report. Each strategy must be rehearsed or role-played, until kids can use it alone. I’ve had schools have students role-play these in assemblies, make them into chart-reminders that are posted around the school, and even have students create mini-videos of each strategy to share with peers. There are three steps to teaching bystander skills:

STEP ONE: Teach the Difference Between Tattling and Reporting

Kids must realize that safety is always the primary goal. So stress: “If someone could get hurt, REPORT! Emphasize: “It’s always better to be safe than sorry.” Then teach the difference between “Tattling” and “Reporting.” Also identify specific trusted adults children can go to and report bullying incidents.

• TATTLING is when you trying to get kids IN trouble when they aren’t hurting themselves or other.

• REPORTING is when you’re trying to help keep kids OUT of trouble because they may get hurt (or they are). Report bullying to an adult you trust. If the adult doesn’t listen, keep reporting until you find one who does.

STEP TWO: Teach What Bullying Looks and Sounds Like

Next, teach what bullying behaviors look like so children will know when they should step in (and not when the behavior is mere teasing). Explain: “Bullying is a cruel or aggressive act that is done on purpose. The bully has more power (strength, status, or size) than the target, who cannot hold his own. The hurtful bullying behavior is not an accident, but done on purpose. The bully usually seems to enjoy seeing the victim in distress and rarely accepts responsibility and often says the target “deserved” the hurtful treatment.” Then teach (depending on the child’s age) that bullying can be…

1. Physical: Punching, hitting, slamming, socking, spitting, slapping,
2. Verbal: Saying put downs, nasty statements, name calling, taunting, racial slurs, or hurtful comments, threatening
3. Emotional: Shunning, excluding, spreading rumors or mean gossip, ruining your reputation
4. Electronic or cyber-bullying: Using the Internet, cell phone, camera, text messaging, photos to say mean or embarrassing things
5. Sexual: Saying or doing things that are lewd or disrespectful in a sexual way

STEP THREE: Teach the Six Borba Bully BUSTER Bystander Skills

I teach the acronym BUSTER to help kids remember the skills. Each letter in the word represents one of the six bystander skills. Not all strategies work for all kids. The trick is to match the techniques with what works best with the child’s temperament and comfort level and the particular situation.

B-Befriend the Victim: Bystanders often don’t intervene because they don’t want to make things worse or assume the victim doesn’t want help. If witnesses know a victim feels upset or wants help they are more likely to step in. And if you befriend a victim, you’re also more likely to get others to join your cause. Show comfort: Stand closer to the victim. Wave other pees over: “Come help!” Ask if the victim wants support: “Do you need help?” Empathize: “I bet he feels sad.” Clarify feelings: “He looks upset.”

U-Use a Distraction: The right diversion can draw peers from the scene, make them focus elsewhere, give the target a chance to get away, and may get the bully to move on. Remember, a bully wants an audience, so reduce it with a distraction. Ploys include: A question: “What are you all doing here?” A diversion: “There’s a great volleyball game going on! Come on!” A false excuse: “A teacher is coming!” An interruption: “I can’t find my bus.”

S-Speak Out and Stand Up!: Speaking out can get others to lend a hand and join you. You must stay cool, and never boo, clap, laugh, or insult, which could egg the bully on even more. Stress that directly confronting a bully is intimidating and it’s a rare kid who can, but there are ways to still stand up to cruelty. Show disapproval: Give a cold, silent stare. Name it: “That’s bullying!” Label it: “That’s mean!” State disapproval: “This isn’t cool!” Ask for support: “Are you with me?”

T-Tell or Text For Help: Teach “Reporting (Trying to stop someone from being hurt) vs. Tattling (Trying to get someone in trouble).” Stress: “If someone is in harms way, report and get help.” Call from a cell, send a text, find an adult, or call 911. Bystanders often don’t report for fear of retaliation, so make sure they know which adults will support them, ensure their confidentiality and give the option of anonymous reporting. Find an adult you trust. If you have problems, keep going until you find someone who believes you.

E-Exit Alone or With Others: Bullies love audiences. Bystanders can drain a bully’s power by reducing the group size a few ways. Encouraging: “You coming? Asking: “What are you all doing here? Directing: “Let’s go!” Suggesting: “Let’s leave.” Exiting: If you can’t get others to leave with you, then walk away. If you stay, you’re part of the cruelty. Leaving means you refuse to be part.

R-Give a Reason or Remedy: Bystanders are more likely to help when told why the action is wrong or what to do. Review why it’s wrong: “This isn’t right!” “This is mean!” “You’ll get suspended.” “You’ll hurt him.” Offer a remedy: “Go get help!” “Let’s work this out with Coach.” The right comments can make peers stop, think, consider the consequences, and even move on.

Written by Dr. Michele Borba
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bully-Proofing Our Kids

This past week I attended an educational conference where I had the pleasure of listening to nationally renowned speaker, Dr. Michele Borba. October is Bullying Awareness Month, therefore, I would like to draw attention to this crucial matter facing our nation's children.

Some of the toughest problems parents must deal with happen right on the school playground where teasing, bullying and mean-spirited kids abound. There seems to be an epidemic of mean-acting kids these days. In fact, the National Education Association estimates that 160,000 children skip school every day because they fear being attacked or intimidated by other students. While we can’t prevent the pain insults can cause, we can lessen our kids’ chances of becoming victims. I tell parents the best thing to do is teach our kids how to deal with their tormentors. Doing so will show them there are ways to resolve conflicts without losing face or resorting to violence and will boost their confidence. So the next time your child is upset from teasing, here are a few ideas I suggest you do:

1. Listen and gather facts.
The first step is often the hardest for parents: listen to your child’s whole story without interrupting. Your goal is to try to figure out what happened, who was involved, where and when the teasing took place, and why your child was teased. Unfortunately, teasing is a part of growing up, but some kids seem to get more than their fair share of insults. If your child appears to be in no immediate danger, keep listening to find out how she reacts to the bullying. By knowing what reaction didn’t stop the bully, you can offer your child a more effective option.

2. Teach a bully-proofing strategy.
What may work with one child may not with another, so it’s best to discuss a range of options and then choose the one or two your child feels most comfortable with. Here are six of the most successful strategies to help kids defend themselves:

* Assert yourself. Teach your child to face the bully by standing tall and using a strong voice. Your child should name the bullying behavior and tell the aggressor to stop: ?That’s teasing. Stop it.? or ?Stop making fun of me. It’s mean.?

* Question the response. Ann Bishop, who teaches violence prevention curriculums, tells her students to respond to an insult with a nondefensive question: “Why would you say that?” or “Why would you want to tell me I am dumb (or fat) and hurt my feelings?”

* Use “I want.” Communication experts suggest teaching your child to address the bully beginning with “I want” and say firmly what he wants changed: “I want you to leave me along.” or “I want you to stop teasing me.”

* Agree with the teaser. Consider helping your child create a statement agreeing with her teaser. Teaser: “You’re dumb.” Child: “Yeah, but I’m good at it.” or Teaser: “Hey, four eyes.” Child: “You’re right, my eyesight is poor.”

* Ignore it. Bullies love it when their teasing upsets their victims, so help your child find a way to not let his tormentor get to him. A group of fifth graders told me ways they ignore their teasers: ?Pretend they’re invisible,? ?Walk away without looking at them,? ?Quickly look at something else and laugh,? and ?Look completely uninterested.?

* Make Fun of the Teasing. Fred Frankel, author of Good Friends Are Hard to Find suggests victims answer every tease with a reply, but not tease back. The teasing often stops, Frankel says, because the child lets the tormentor know he’s not going to let the teasing get to him (even if it does). Suppose the teaser says, “You’re stupid.” The child says a rehearsed comeback such as: “Really?” Other comebacks could be: “So?,” “You don’t say,” “And your point is?,” or “Thanks for telling me.”

3. Rehearse the strategy with your child.
Once you choose a technique, rehearse it together so your child is comfortable trying it. The trick is for your child to deliver it assuredly to the bully--and that takes practice. Explain that though he has the right to feel angry, it’s not okay to let it get out of control. Besides, anger just fuels the bully. Try teaching your child the CALM approach to defueling the tormentor.

* C - Cool down. When you confront the bully, stay calm and always in control. Don’t let him think he’s getting to you. If you need to calm down, count to twenty slowly inside your head or say to yourself, “Chill out!” And most importantly: tell your child to always get help whenever there is a chance she might be injured.

* A - Assert yourself. Try the strategy with the bully just like you practiced.

* L - Look at the teaser straight in the eye. Appear confident, hold your head high and stand tall.

* M - Mean it! Use a firm, strong voice. Say what you feel, but don’t be insulting, threaten or tease back.

Final Thoughts
Like it or not, most kids are bound to encounter children who are deliberately mean. By teaching kids effective ways to respond to verbal abuse, we can reduce their chances of being victims as well as helping them learn how to cope more successfully with future adversities. Of course, no child should ever have to deal with ongoing teasing, meanness and harassment. It’s up to adults and kids alike to take an active stand against bullying and stress that cruelty is always unacceptable.

Written by Dr. Michele Borba
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tips for Choosing Extracurricular Activities in High School

Are you a contributor or just a joiner? What meaningful contributions have you made to the community? How well do you manage priorities and your time? Can you maintain a long-term commitment? What are your non-academic interests, and what diversity will you bring to your new school or company?

These are questions being asked by college admissions boards and prospective employers as they look over the applications and resumes they receive. Thoughtfully choosing the extracurricular activities you will participate in during your high school years will help you in answering these questions.

Extracurricular activities are a great way to spend free time. You can have a lot of fun with them. But extracurricular activities can be much more. They can help you pursue a hobby and find friends who share your interests. They can offer opportunities to participate in community service projects. They can be an avenue for exploring your future career options and developing networks. When deciding which of the many opportunities to grab, think about the following tips, and get yourself going in a direction that will be good for you now, and in the future.

1. Decide on at least one activity that you want to continue for the full four years of high school. This could be a community service organization, such as Habitat for Humanity. If no Habitat group is available at your high school, the local organization would be more than happy to help you start one. Building homes alongside other volunteers and the future occupants will provide a real sense of belonging and commitment to community. You will also learn construction skills that can be applied later either on the job or in maintaining your own place.

Other community service organizations to consider might be hospital volunteers, literacy tutors, or humane shelter volunteers. So many options are available, this is only a dabbling of the possibilities. The key to maintaining a long-term commitment is to be sure the organization you choose both meets your interests and provides a meaningful outlet for your energies.

2. Don’t overload. Being in a lot of different organizations will mean you can’t really focus on any one of them. You will not be able to maintain too many commitments over time. Choosing a couple of things to do, and spending enough time to make a significant contribution, will be much more satisfying. You will make friends more easily, and they won’t be upset because you have to back out. You can always add another activity if you find you have extra time.

3. Choose at least one activity that will help you stay physically active. Regular exercise is important both for maintaining good health and for controlling weight. Finding a sport that you enjoy can help you stay fit. Finding one that you will continue after high school is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

4. Be true to yourself. If you are very shy, the drama club may be a great place for you. Most actors are actually quite shy. They come alive on a stage or in front of a camera. Their introspective personalities allow them to delve under the skin of the people the portray, and understand what is going on there. It may seem counter-intuitive, but shy people often belong in the spotlight.

5. Figure out what organizations best suit your interests and personality, and you have a winner. You will be able to stick with it. You’ll be able to contribute in a meaningful way. You’ll be able to shine.

Whatever you choose, relax and enjoy the experience. Your high school years will be gone before you know it. Make the most of them.

Written by Carol Smock
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC


I am an educational consultant in private practice advising families on day/boarding schools, college admissions, schools for teens and young adults who have emotional/behavioral problems, learning issues, neurological and psychiatric problems.

This blog is dedicated to the wonderful students and families who come to me for advice on school placement. I will try to post information that is related to Texas and national college admissions, as well as information related to topics of interest in the field of education. We will address a variety of issues and trends in college admissions, boarding schools or programs who serve students with special needs.

We hope to provide you with answers to frequently asked questions and current trends in the industry. For more information on the Kahn Educational Group, LLC, please visit my website. Thank you for your interest. Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

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