Thursday, June 9, 2011

Do We Need to Ditch High-Stakes Testing to Compete with China?

At a time when international test results—like last year's PISA data—seem to indicate that American students are falling behind their Chinese counterparts, we're feeling the pressure to adopt a stereotypically Chinese method of educating kids: lots of rote memorization of facts and hardcore standardized testing. But in a recent interview with Education News, Minxuan Zhang, the Director-General of the Center for International Education Studies, Ministry of Education, China, and National Project Manager of PISA, says that the Chinese vision of education no longer includes those kinds of rigid practices. Instead, China's moving away from rote learning.


 Zhang acknowledges that there's a long history of high-stakes exams in China's education system. "Old China" had a tradition of selecting the best students depending on test results, and 5,000 years of culture isn't exactly going to disappear overnight. But she calls testing "an oversimplified way to check educational results" and she doesn't believe emphasizing them improves education because tests come at the end of the school experience. She says,
"If we want to build a good system, we cannot only rely on testing at the end of learning. Testing implies that the student has finished the educational system. The most important thing is not just to see the testing results, but to pay close attention to the educational process. The process of education is much more important than the testing."
That's remarkably different from the direction the United States is heading. We're focused on using test results to evaluate students, schools, and teachers alike. And, to do better on tests, we've spent the time since No Child Left Behind was enacted narrowing our educational focus to concentrate on reading and math. But, says Zhang, that's the opposite of China's current thinking since
"Education is not just about knowledge. It is also the process of socialization of the individual. There are other important elements such as social responsibility, personal potential in arts and the fine arts, how a student handles himself in relationships with other people, how students handle their work. Those kinds of skills and capacities are very important, sometimes even more important than subject testing."
Interestingly, Zhang also shared that Chinese education officials are thinking about how they can "lessen the learning burden" on students. In order to counter the emotional stress students feel, they're trying to get schools to send the message that high school shouldn't be the most important time in a student's life. Of course, this doesn't mean that grades aren't important, but instead of burning students out in a high-stakes pressure cooker environment, China's looking for ways to "keep student's interest in learning" throughout their lifetimes.

We want to be economically competitive with the Chinese, but while they're actually pursuing new innovations in education, why are we moving toward the "Old China" methods they're discarding?

Written by Liz Dwyer for Good Education
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

10 Most Historic College Campuses in the World

Although colleges and universities more than understandably evolved over the centuries, all of them owe a debt of gratitude to the medieval institutions who started it all. Since 1088, the world of higher education has expanded magnanimously to all corners of the globe, encompassing a far more diverse range of programs, faculty, staff and students. The following have paid witness to this drastic change more than any others, laying the rocksteady foundation for today's institutions. But even beyond that, they have all played an active role in shaping world history itself, regardless of their contributions' sizes.

  1. University of Bologna: This lauded institution has been in continuous operation since 1088, give or take a few years. For the longest time, they only offered doctoral degrees, though in recent times they expanded their offerings. Today, around 100,000 students spread across 23 different faculties at 8 different branches and schools — including an international location in Buenos Aires. Considering its Catholic roots, it probably comes as little surprise that University of Bologna receives accolades for its civil and canon law programs. Throughout its incredible history, the school has graduated such diverse cultural luminaries as Dante Alighieri, Nicolaus Copernicus, Albrecht D–rer and Umberto Eco.
  2. University of Oxford: As with many medieval universities, the exact date of founding remains largely unknown, though it's well known that teaching was going on in 1096. Although the oldest English-speaking school in the world (pictured), much of University of Oxford's wealthy intellectual legacy stems from massive influxes of Continental students and ideologies. Catholic orders, Renaissance beliefs and figures and scholars fleeing Nazism and Communism have all, at one time or another, flocked to this academic safe haven and eventually left their permanent mark. The year 1878 saw the landmark addition of the first women's college, with a second following a year later — and three more came shortly thereafter. Even today, it remains one of the world's most eclectic, prestigious and influential universities thanks to this diverse heritage.
  3. University of Salamanca: Spain's oldest university started offering classes around 1130, but never received a papal charter until 1218 and a royal charter from King Alfonso X until 1254. By 1255, it was able to refer to itself as a university thanks to the confirmation of Pope Alexander IV. Because of its age, this institution participated in its fair share of notable historical events, both amazing and absolutely terrible. For one, many of its graduates and faculty assisted the government in its unjust expulsion and torturing of innocent Jews. Geographers at the University of Salamanca also played an integral role in assisting Christoffa Corombo on his historic voyage attempting to discover a quicker trade route towards the West Indies. After his accidental landing in the Americas, the very same school that backed his journey would go on to debate the ethical and economic impact of interacting with its indigenous peoples.
  4. University of Modena: University of Modena actually spreads itself across the eponymous city as well as Reggio Emilia, with eight faculties comprising the former and four in the latter. The original campus was founded in 1175 by former University of Bologna educator Pillio of Medicina, but its original medieval structure fizzled out entirely by 1338. At that point, it ceased offering degrees and focused more on holding classes until funding forced the 1590 suspension. However, it revived itself in Modena around 1680 and eventually picked up its charter five years later. Today, both campuses host a total of around 20,000 students. Anyone visiting Modena needs to head over to the school and explore the Orto Botanico dell'Universit– di Modena e Reggio Emilia. This free botanical garden began as a small plot for medicinal plants, grew into an herbarium and subsequently expanded to its lush form locals and tourists currently enjoy.
  5. University of Vicenza: Many academics, unfortunately, consider the University of Vicenza one of the least significant surviving medieval schools. In spite of this mindset, however, it still deserves recognition for its age and endurance. It was founded in 1204 and received recognition as a stadium generale at some point in the 13th Century.
  6. University of Cambridge: The second-oldest stadium generale in the English-speaking world sprouted thanks to the first. Because of myriad disputes with faculty and townspeople alike, a small throng of Oxford intellectuals went on to found the competing university in 1209. Today, it is considered amongst the best institutes of higher learning on the planet, but it certainly took an interesting historical path to get here. On the orders of King Henry XIII, Cambridge disbanded its canon law program and dissolved any and all associations with Catholicism. As a result, classes shifted towards math, science, the classics and Bible — offerings which eventually inspired some of the most influential politicians, scientists, mathematicians, writers and thinkers of all time. Without Cambridge, there would be no laws of motion, atom splitting, unified electromagnetism, theory of evolution and natural selection, Turing machines or quantum mechanics. Nor would the electron, hydrogen or structure of DNA been discovered. Among a staggering heap of other accomplishments, of course.
  7. University of Padua: A 1222 split from the University of Bologna resulted in the creation of University of Padua, whose new students and faculty desired more flexibility and freedom. At first, it only focused on providing degrees in law and theology, though it expanded its offerings to include astronomy, rhetoric, medicine, dialectic, philosophy, rhetoric, grammar and philosophy by 1399. During and shortly after the Renaissance, University of Padua enjoyed recognition as one of the world's intellectual and research powerhouses, likely due to its closer affiliation with the Venetian government than the Catholic Church. Even now, the 65,000-student institution is oftentimes considered amongst the greatest institutes of higher learning in Italy.
  8. University of Naples Federico II: Unlike the other historical universities listed here, this one never affiliated itself with any religious institution. Rather, it received its initial patronage from Emperor Frederico II in 1224, making it the oldest state school in the world. Curiously enough, however, its most famous alum made a name for himself as one of the foremost Catholic theologians. St. Thomas Aquinas likely formed many of his influential religious theories based on his exposure to classical philosophy, letters and political science at University of Naples Federico II.
  9. University of Siena: Established in 1240, University of Siena funded itself on taxes levied upon individuals and families renting living quarters to citizens. By 1252, Pope Innocent IV was declaring that teachers and students alike would be exempt from taxes, forced labor, night watchman duty and military service — particularly those involved with Latin, medicine and the natural sciences. Following a giant influx of University of Bologna faculty and students angered with a young man's death sentence, the institution in Siena swelled significantly, even enjoying stadium generale status. While it may not have played a huge role in Italian history, the school did witness major power switches in the region and hosted many extremely vocal demonstrations against Risorgimento.
  10. University of Coimbra: Portugal's oldest university is a public school founded in 1290 following the approval of King Dinis. It actually started out in Lisbon before the 1308 move to Coimbra — a result of tensions with Pope Nicholas IV, the citizenry and the students. The core curriculum originally offered classes in the arts, canon law, law and medicine, which remained intact during the transition. In 1338, King Alfonso IV brought the school back to Lisbon, where it stayed until 1537 when King Jo–o III sent it to Coimbra permanently.

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

Thursday, April 21, 2011

More Non-Californians are Offered Freshman Slots at UC Schools

Applicants from other states or countries made up 18.1% of the 72,432 students admitted to at least one of the nine undergraduate University of California campuses, up from 14% last year and 11.6% in 2009, data show.

The University of California's recent decision to boost its enrollment of out-of-state students for the extra tuition they pay was evident in the higher number of non-Californians offered freshman admission for the fall, according to data released Monday.

Applicants from other states or countries made up 18.1% of the 72,432 students admitted to at least one of the nine undergraduate UC campuses, up from 14% last year and 11.6% in 2009, the figures show. The trend was most dramatic at UC Berkeley and UCLA, where 31.2% and 29.9% of freshman admission offers went to non-Californians.

But fewer out-of-state than in-state students typically accept their UC offers. Officials said they expect the systemwide enrollment of non-California freshmen this fall to end up below 10%, the maximum set by the UC regents in December when they moved to boost the proportion of such students from 6% now. Out-of-state students pay $23,000 more annually than in-state students, money the cash-strapped system says it needs.

Overall, 68.2% of all the 106,186 applicants to UC were accepted by at least one of the campuses to which they applied, a slight increase over the 68% of the year before. However, more students than ever were denied admissions at their first- and second-choice campuses.

"Because of these dire financial circumstances, our campuses have had to make very difficult decisions to turn away highly qualified students who they know would thrive and contribute greatly to the life of their campuses," said Pamela Burnett, UC's interim director of undergraduate admissions.

More than 12,700 students turned away at other UC campuses will be offered a spot at the university's 5-year-old Merced campus, even though they did not apply there. That way, Burnett said, UC will honor the goal of the state's master plan for higher education, which calls on the university to admit all academically eligible applicants, generally in the top 12.5% of high school graduates based on grades and test scores.

Combined with enrollment cutbacks at Cal State campuses and community colleges, UC's push to enroll more out-of-state students threatens to diminish opportunities for Californians, according to William Tierney, director of USC's Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis.

"We are moving in the opposite direction of where we need to go," Tierney said. "We need to be increasing capacity and participation in higher education, and the public sector is decreasing that. I understand why they are doing it, but it's not in the best interest of the state."

UC officials said they expect enrollment of California freshmen to stay nearly the same in fall 2011 as it was last year, about 32,600. They also emphasized that public universities in Michigan, Virginia and Colorado enroll more than 30% of their undergraduates from beyond their borders, triple UC's goal.

UCLA and UC Berkeley once again were the most selective UC campuses. UCLA accepted 25.3% of its applicants and UC Berkeley, 25.5%. Next were UC San Diego, with 34.1%; UC Irvine, 45.5%; UC Santa Barbara, 45.7%; UC Davis, 46%; UC Riverside, 62.2%; UC Santa Cruz, 67.9%; and UC Merced, 78%.

Admitted students have until May 1 to decide whether to attend, and some students may later switch campuses if they are offered admission from waiting lists. About 16,500 UC applicants were wait-listed for at least one campus this year, up from 10,700 in 2010, when the university first used the lists.

Among ethnic groups, Asian Americans continued to make up the largest share of UC admission offers, with 36%, up from 35.4% last year. White students remained at 30.6%, and Latinos increased to 26%, up from 23.3%. African Americans made up 4.1% of the accepted pool, compared with 4.2% last year.

Written by Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times

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

 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Admission to College, With Catch: Year’s Wait

For as long as there have been selective colleges, the spring ritual has been the same: Some applicants get a warm note of acceptance, and the rest get a curt rejection.

Now, as colleges are increasingly swamped with applications, a small but growing number are offering a third option: guaranteed admission if the student attends another institution for a year or two and earns a prescribed grade-point average.

This little-noticed practice — an unusual mix of early admission and delayed gratification — has allowed colleges to tap their growing pools of eager candidates to help counter the enrollment slump that most institutions suffer later on, as the accepted students drop out, transfer, study abroad or take internships off campus.

“Life happens — we all understand that the size of the freshman class diminishes as they progress,” said Barmak Nassirian, an associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers in Washington. “This is an attempt at what is called enrollment management.”

But while the practice, known as deferred admission or a guaranteed transfer option, offers applicants another shot at their dream school, it can also place them in limbo, as they start college life on a campus they plan to abandon. And it can create problems for that institution, which is not usually told about the deal the student has struck with a competitor.

Monica Inzer, the dean of admission at Hamilton College in upstate New York, called the practice “borderline unethical,” saying it had the effect of recruiting students from other colleges. “We would allow a student to defer for a year, but never to matriculate full time at another college,” Ms. Inzer said.

No one tracks how many colleges use this admissions option, and some are reluctant to reveal that they do. In New York State, they include Cornell University, Medaille College in Buffalo and several campuses in the State University of New York system, including the ones in Albany and Geneseo. Many others around the country, like the University of Maryland and Middlebury College in Vermont, have long had variations on the practice, accepting students if they agree to start a semester later.

Though deferred admission is not entirely new, admissions officers say the number of colleges offering it has increased in recent years, and they expect that to continue as baby boomers’ children, who created their own demographic bulge, move into adulthood.

“Throughout the Northeast in particular, the number of traditional freshmen will continue to go down, so schools that aren’t already doing something like this are talking about it,” said Gregroy P. Florczak, vice president for enrollment management and undergraduate admissions at Medaille. “You’re going to need to pick up in transfers what you are losing in incoming freshmen.”

Some admissions officers suggested in interviews that deferred admission had also provided an edge in college rankings. Because the rankings are based in part on the SAT scores and high school grade-point averages of freshmen entering in the fall, the scores — presumably lower — of students who are to begin later are not included. Deferring the admission of some students also lowers the college’s admissions rate, making it appear more selective.

William Caren, associate vice president for enrollment services at SUNY Geneseo, said the effect on rankings was not a motivation for his campus’s offering deferred admission, but “a collateral benefit.”

Each college with deferred admissions does them a little differently. Usually, the offers are put in writing, and prospective students are asked to submit a form demonstrating interest. But while the college promises delayed admission, students are typically not required to commit themselves or pay a deposit. Colleges often provide academic advisers to help students choose compatible courses at the institution they will attend first.

Such arrangements are different from the traditional “articulation agreements” that four-year public colleges make with community colleges. In those, the institutions work together to ensure the smooth transferring of credits.

When Evi Nam applied to Cornell two years ago after graduating from high school in Concord, N.H., the first word she got from the university’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations was a rejection. “I was heartbroken,” she said.

A few days later, she received another message from the school: the offer of a spot the next fall as a transfer student, as long as she earned at least a 3.3 grade-point average at another accredited institution.


“It felt like a gift from heaven,” said Ms. Nam, who attended New York University for a year, earned a 3.8, and started at Cornell last fall. “It’s an Ivy League. I was singing when they gave me the option.”

But life was not easy at N.Y.U., where, as fate would have it, she also missed the cut for standard admission. Instead, she was admitted to the university’s Liberal Studies Program, a two-year track for slightly weaker applicants, who are guaranteed enrollment in a bachelor’s program their third year.

Ms. Nam held off notifying N.Y.U. about her intention to leave until the end of her year there — and held herself aloof from campus life.

“I knew that I was going to be leaving in a year, so I didn’t want to make any BFF’s,” she said. “It put me in an awkward position. I had no connections with N.Y.U. — it was just a steppingstone for Cornell. A lot of people at N.Y.U. got jealous and cut me out of their lives. It was messy.”

The dean of the Liberal Studies Program at N.Y.U., Fred Schwarzbach, was critical of students who enter knowing their stay will be temporary. Without commenting specifically on Ms. Nam, he said, “In general, we would not admit a student unless that student were committed to a four-year undergraduate experience.”

Still, the benefits of deferred admission can be attractive for both students and colleges.

For years, SUNY Geneseo was on the receiving end of the phenomenon, losing sophomores to Cornell year after year. “A lot of students who apply here also apply to Cornell,” Mr. Caren said. “When Cornell says it will defer their admission, they enroll here for a year. Then they come to the dean’s office and say, ‘Well, I’m leaving.’ We picked up on this, and we decided to do it ourselves.”

Two years ago, Geneseo, the most selective liberal arts college in the state system, began offering students a guaranteed-transfer admission for the following fall. Those students must receive a 3.0 grade-point average from any accredited institution. Geneseo sent out 200 such offers, but only about 15 students accepted.

A more popular program delays admission until the spring semester for hundreds of applicants who are academically stronger than the first group. Mr. Caren said Geneseo last year offered 500 students the option of arriving in the spring, or the following fall; 178 ended up enrolling, up from 50 seven years ago. Though not required to study elsewhere, virtually all do, and more than a third enroll in a four-year college for a single semester.

“We have a number of students who graduate midyear for a variety of reasons,” Mr. Caren said. “So the spring semester balances out very nicely and we can maintain the residence halls at fuller capacity.”

There are many other variations on the theme of finding room in the future for marginal candidates. Middlebury College asks applicants to indicate their willingness to arrive in February instead of September; about 100 students enroll in the spring, most voluntarily. The University of Maryland has offered 4,400 applicants admission for spring 2012 on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

Fairleigh Dickinson, in Teaneck and Madison, N.J., promises eventual admission to a few hundred applicants each year if they perform well at one of 16 community colleges in the state.

And next fall, Binghamton University, one of SUNY’s four research universities, will begin a program that puts another spin on the community college route. It has just offered about 600 applicants spots in its freshman dormitories. But those students will enroll at Broome Community College a few miles away, becoming eligible for admission to Binghamton in a year or two.

Asked if housing a subset of community college students on campus could make them feel second-class, Sandra Starke, vice provost for enrollment management at Binghamton, said: “We’re hoping that’s not the case. We believe all students will be inspiring one another to do better.”

Written by Lisa W. Foderaro for The New York Times
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Packing Heat at College

When your children go to college what do you pack to send with them?

You probably include their clothing, some sheets and towels, a laptop computer and maybe a small refrigerator or microwave.

But, how about a gun?

Don't be shocked. It's not that far-fetched. And guns could be coming to a college campus near you.

In the aftermath of several campus shootings in recent years and the gun fueled violence in Arizona that killed 6, wounded 13 and incapacitated Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, there is a movement to give college students and their professors the right to carry weapons onto campus.

It is already the law in Utah where students at all public colleges are allowed to carry a concealed gun if they have the proper permit. And, in Colorado several colleges have taken advantage of a state law giving them the option of allowing licensed handguns in class, several other institutions of higher learning there are also considering it. Similar measures have been proposed in about a dozen other states. There is almost always opposition to the idea.

But in Texas, which has more than half a million college students at any given time, lawmakers seem ready to pass their version of a guns-on-campus bill that sponsors say will help keep the peace in places where students are trying to learn. They believe the best defense against another out-of-control campus gunman killing innocents is armed students and professors who can shoot back and stop the carnage.

Naturally, that's a point of white hot debate.

On one side are those who think guns are the last thing you want to introduce into a college setting rife with academic pressures, romantic entanglements, competitive sports and the universal experimentation with alcohol and drugs. A Los Angeles Times editorial opined recently: "Adding firearms to this volatile mix is a spectacularly bad idea; guns are indeed tools of self-defense, but they're also tools of suicide, accidental shootings, intimidation and murder."

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, named for former presidential press secretary Jim Brady who nearly lost his life in 1981 when an assassin opened fire on his boss, Ronald Reagan, stands firmly against the idea of weapons on campus. An organizations rep says, "The college age years -- 18-24 -- are the peak years for engaging in gun crimes, abusing drugs and alcohol, attempting suicide, and having other mental health problems. A binge-drinking, drug-using student is dangerous enough; let's not give him or her a gun."

Here's the other side. The lawmaker who proposed the pending bill in Texas is state Senator Jeff Wentworth. He recently told MSNBC host Chris Matthews that he was wrong in his assumptions about the bill.

"It's not college kids carrying concealed weapons on campus. In Texas, the law requires you to be at least 21 years of age to get a license," Wentworth said. The concealed weapons law will be, "mainly for members of the facility, staff, graduate students and a few seniors" to protect the rest of the "unarmed, defenseless and vulnerable" students should someone come on campus and start shooting.

Wentworth was questioned repeatedly about mixing guns with students using alcohol. What about an armed student carrying a gun into a campus bar? Impossible, he said, "We don't have bars on (public university) campuses. That's the law in Texas."

What would happen if a student decided to take a weapon to a hotly contested football or other type of athletic contest? "That's not allowed under this bill," the senator said.

Remembering the 2007 slaughter in Virginia where 32 students were killed Wentworth calmly said, "I don't ever want to see repeated on a Texas college campus what happened at Virginia Tech, where some deranged, suicidal madman goes into a building and is able to pick off totally defenseless kids like sitting ducks."

Truth be told I'd like to see all guns -- from small handguns and glocks to rifles and semi-automatic types -- melted down and used for scrap.

Tra-la-lah! Wouldn't it be a wonderful world that found no need for guns at all? My logical brain tells me that is never going to happen.

So, the question becomes do we run the risk of regulating gun ownership so much that the responsible people among us decide it isn't worth the hassle of multiple classes, training sessions and big fees to get a license? When that happens only police and the bad guys will have guns. And as we all know the police can't be everywhere.

Dependable Americans with permits already carry their weapons into shopping malls, banks, churches and grocery stores among countless other places every day. Why should a university campus be any different?

Final facts to ponder: A group called Students for Concealed Carry on Campus reports that over 70 American campuses currently allow licensed guns. There hasn't been a single reported instance of shoot-outs, accidents or heated confrontations with a gun involved at any of them. In fact, statistics show the crime rate at Colorado State University has gone steadily down since concealed carry was enacted.

Written by Diane Diamond for The Huffington Post
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

Thursday, March 17, 2011

TEEN VIOLENCE

Teen violence is real, and is a big part of a teenager’s life in the society we live in today. It can include things like dating someone who is violent, who slaps them around frequently, to other teens in school beating on them. Your child sees violence in their school everyday; many teens are using drugs and alcohol and become very depressed. This can be dangerous because they are not thinking clearly and may bring a gun or knife to school. If teen is in a bad enough state they could shoot other students or themselves, or maybe a teacher that they feel has been unfair to them. Depression can cause anyone to become violent especially a teenager.

Gang violence among teens is a growing concern; teens in this situation are subject to being shot at, stabbed, or beaten to death. Teens that are involved in gangs are more likely to commit a violent act towards another person, possibly even killing them. The longer a child lives in this type of environment, the more violent they may become.
 
Teens also see violence in their homes, they may see one parent beaten and abused by the other, and sometimes one of the parents may be guilty of beating their teen. Maybe the other parent is unaware of what is going on or is too afraid to do anything about it. This type of teen violence is not uncommon in today’s society.  

Teen violence prevention

The best way to help prevent teen violence is by not allowing it in your home, treat each other, including your teen with respect and courtesy. By doing this you set good examples for your teen, these examples will help teach your teen how to treat others with respect. Talk to your teenager; let them know you understand there is a lot of violence surrounding them. Let your teen know you will be there, and be supportive if they ever need you. Try and stay a part of your teen’s life, and if you notice any odd behavior, talk with your child letting them know you are there for them.

Teen violence statistics

Fifty percent of men who abuse their spouse will abuse their children. As sad as it sounds, three million children are at risk of being assaulted by a parent each year. A teen growing up with their mother being abused will more likely be a violent teenager and adult, than a teen that grows up in a loving home. Forty per cent of teenage girls have friends that have been a victim of some violent act. One in five high school girls has been in a violent relationship with a boy. Teen violence has been a problem for a long time but statistic show that this problem is growing and getting more violent each year. Understand that it is a serious problem and we need to not take it lightly. 

Published on AT-RISK.ORG
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bullying Revisited: The R Word

In our society of child psychology and guidance counseling, one would be hard pressed to find someone who does not acknowledge the pernicious consequences and prevalence of childhood bullying.

Take, for example, our friend Tyler. Tyler, now in his 20s, was verbally and emotionally abused inside and outside his classrooms growing up. Most would agree that the bullying he faced, while deplorable, was far from unique.

After all, everyone gets bullied. Right? Bullying is a rite of passage, a de facto hazing that all students endure. Right?

In short, no; bullying is preventable and anything but ubiquitous. In fact, recent studies show that only 25 percent of general education students are bullied. But how do we reconcile this with our common memory of rampant childhood and adolescent bullying?

Common knowledge dictates that the victims of bullying are typically those who stand apart from the all-powerful social norms. Bullied students are often those who look different, speak differently, and perhaps even learn differently.

And here we find the hidden victim. While only 25 percent of general education students report being bullied, this number swells to nearly 75 percent when speaking of special education students. Studies show that as many as three in four special education students face peer harassment, often chronic and pervasive, in their schools.

But just as we have traditionally sequestered and pigeonholed special education students, so too do many of us turn a blind eye to the deplorable social conditions these young people face. They routinely confront verbal, physical, and emotional assault in and around the buildings purported to be their safe havens, often while already struggling with issues of self-worth precipitated by an unaccommodating society. We choose to ignore -- or, yet worse, deny -- the silent epidemic of victimization and dehumanization infecting our schools and poisoning the social aspirations and abilities of our most abused demographic.

As you may have guessed, Tyler, like many victims of bullying, has a developmental disability, cerebral palsy. Because of his differences, bullies throughout Tyler's childhood assaulted his self-worth with a concoction of physical and emotional abuse. They all but shattered his self-image with their message of worthlessness, helplessness, and denigration. And their most efficient tool, their best crystallization and communication of this message, was the word "retard(ed)."

Despite "sticks and stones" upbringings, we all know the marks of physical abuse to be temporary, while the destructive power of language scars the psyche indelibly. Tyler, after years of being bullied with the R-word, internalized the degradation conveyed by it and began to identify himself as a "retard."

The R-word, its diagnostic history, and the modern synonymy it has accrued with concepts of undesirability and disdain are inextricably intertwined with the causes and consequences of the bullying of people with intellectual disabilities. It has become a convenient shorthand of exclusion, a linguistic vessel that captures and delivers centuries of stigma and discrimination from bully to bullied, abuser to abused. This word enables the harassment of students and adults with intellectual disabilities and the prejudice it embodies continues to bar this population from equal access to education, employment, and quality of life. An end to the R-word and attention to its consequences will contribute to the cure of this silent epidemic.

To stop this pattern of abuse, tens of thousands of young people across the country and around the world are today uniting in the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. In their hallways and on their campuses, they are calling their peers and communities to pledge to end the use of the R-word and to create school and work environments where all students and employees are valued.

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Since its inception in 2008, Spread the Word to End the Word has collected over 150,000 pledges internationally. We invite you to join at www.r-word.org, where many of the pledges have been collected.

The elimination of the R-word will not end bullying but curtailing this verbal dehumanization will perhaps allow us to appreciate the intrinsic humanity in all of us, with and without intellectual disabilities.

As Tyler shows us, changing language not only transforms our attitudes towards others but also those towards ourselves: "I used to call myself a retard. But I don't anymore. Now, I call myself a person."

Join Special Olympics and Best Buddies in enabling that humanity in ourselves and others.

Spread the Word to End the R-Word.

Written by Tim Shriver, Jr. for The Huffington Post
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

Friday, February 25, 2011

Energy Drinks Risky for Children and Teens

Energy drinks are under-studied, overused and can be dangerous for children and teens.  

Dakota Sailor, 18, a high school senior in Carl Junction, Mo., says risks linked with energy drinks aren't just hype.

Sailor had a seizure and was hospitalized for five days last year after drinking two large energy drinks - a brand he'd never tried before.  

He said his doctor thinks caffeine or caffeine-like ingredients may have been to blame. Introduced more than 20 years ago, energy drinks are the fastest growing U.S. beverage market; 2011 sales are expected to top $9 billion.  

The American Association of Poison Control Centers adopted codes late last year to start tracking energy drink overdoses and side effects nationwide; 677 cases occurred from October through December; so far, 331 have been reported this year.

Most 2011 cases involved children and teens. Of the more than 300 energy drink poisonings this year, a quarter of them involved kids younger than 6.

A clinical report on energy drinks is expected soon from the American Academy of Pediatrics that may include guidelines for doctors.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits the amount of caffeine in soda because it's classified as a food.
But the FDA has no control over energy drinks because they're classified as dietary supplements.

Doctors said case studies show energy drinks can contain up to three times as much caffeine as soda. It's believed they have caused seizures, strokes, high blood pressure and heart palpitations. Doctors believe energy drinks could also cause sudden death among children with underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, mood swings and migraines.

Denmark, Turkey and Uruguay have banned the beverages while Norway doesn't allow them to be sold to anyone under 15.
 
Poison Help 1-800-222-1222
 
Published in the Horizon Family RMG TEEN ALERT
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Risks for Quitting College Identified

College students who consider dropping out are particularly sensitive to a handful of critical events including depression and loss of financial aid, according to a study led by Michigan State University scholars.

Surprisingly, however, other events such as a death in the family and students’ failure to get their intended major did not have a significant influence on their intention to drop out, said Tim Pleskac, MSU assistant professor of psychology and lead researcher on the project.

By identifying which risks prompt students to consider quitting, the research could help in the effort to combat college withdrawal, Pleskac said. More than 40 percent of students in the United States fail to get a bachelor’s degree within six years at the college where they began, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“Prior to this work, little was known about what factors in a student’s everyday life prompt them to think about withdrawing from college,” Pleskac said. “We now have a method to measure what events are ‘shocking’ students and prompting them to think about quitting.”

“From an institutional perspective,” he added, “we are now better suited to think about what students we should target in terms of counseling or other assistance to help them work through these issues.”

The study, funded by the College Board, will appear in an upcoming issue of the research journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

In the study, Pleskac and colleagues developed a mathematical model that describes how students decide to quit. They used the model to analyze surveys from 1,158 freshmen at 10 U.S. colleges and universities. The surveys listed 21 critical events (or “shocks") and asked students whether these events had happened to them during the previous semester; the students were later asked whether they planned to withdraw.

The critical event with the most influence was depression. Students also were sensitive to being recruited by an employer or another institution; losing financial aid or experiencing a large increase in tuition or living costs; unexpected bad grade; and roommate conflicts.

They were less sensitive to critical events such as death in the family; significant injury; inability to enter their intended major; becoming addicted to a substance; coming into a large sum of money; losing a job needed to pay tuition; and becoming engaged  or married.

Previous research had studied the role critical events play in employee turnover decisions. However, this was the first study to examine the phenomenon with college withdrawal, the researchers said.

“Traditionally the problems of employee turnover and college student attrition have been viewed from different lenses,” said Jessica Keeney, a project researcher and doctoral student in psychology at MSU. “But we see a lot of similarities in how employees and students decide to quit. A ‘shocking’ event, such as a clash with a co-worker or roommate, could be the final factor that pushes someone to leave.”

The other project researchers were Neal Schmitt from MSU, Stephanie Merritt from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Frederick Oswald from Rice University.

Published by Michigan State University
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sexting: Schools, Legislators Debate Punishments For Offenders

Sending provocative or explicit messages and photos over cell phones and computers has become increasingly popular among American teenagers in recent years.


The popularity of sexting has sent parents, school officials and legislators scrambling to figure out how to address the issue.

According to a national survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 39 percent of all teens admitted to sending sexually suggestive messages over the Internet or on cell phones. A further 20 percent of teens said they had sent or posted nude or partially nude images or videos of themselves.

It's become obvious that sexting won't go away over night. The question remains: is it parents, schools or law enforcement's job to intervene?

Schools Lead The Charge
In some school districts, such as Kelso, Wash., sexting policies have recently been put in place to deter students and catch perpetrators.

KATU News reports the Kelso School Board voted Monday, Feb. 7, to allow school officials to confiscate cell phones from any student suspected of sexting. The device is then searched for evidence of inappropriate messages and photos.

Students caught engaging in sexting could face suspension or expulsion. The American Civil Liberties Union has objected to the policy, claiming it infringes on individual privacy rights.

The New York Department of Education has also moved to ban sexting. The rules would mean 90-day suspensions for students caught sexting. Students could get in trouble not just for messages sent during school, but at home as well.

States Move To Criminalize Sexting
Across the country, many legislators have recently passed, or are in the process of passing, state laws that criminalize sexting.

Before there were official sexting laws, young people caught distributing sexually explicit photos of themselves or others were sometimes charged with felony penalties for child pornography. The felony can carry punishments such as jail time, steep fines and induction into the sex offender registry.

While lawmakers are suggesting that sexting should be classified as an illegal act, most are looking to divert young people into educational programs instead of overloading the juvenile justice system.

In New Jersey, Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt introduced a bill last year that would let first time offenders take an informative course in lieu of harsher punishments.

According to the AP:

The legislation requires the attorney general's office to create a program to teach teens about the criminal penalties and social consequences of sending or receiving nude or seminude images through cell phones or computers. The educational components would include lessons on how the uniqueness of the Internet can produce long-term and unforeseen consequences after photographs are posted and the connection between cyber-bullying and the posting of sexual images.

This week, Texas State Senator Kirk Watson brought a similar bill to the legislature in his home state -- with one caveat: parents would also be forced to attend the educational seminars along with their child.

According to the Houston Chronicle, being charged with sexting could carry a Class C misdemeanor, for which the youth and a parent would have attend classes about the potential harm caused by sexting.

The policy would make parents assume greater responsibility for their child's actions, while learning about sexting themselves.

From the The Huffington Post
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Record Level of Stress Found in College Freshmen

The emotional health of college freshmen — who feel buffeted by the recession and stressed by the pressures of high school — has declined to the lowest level since an annual survey of incoming students started collecting data 25 years ago. 
In the survey, “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010,” involving more than 200,000 incoming full-time students at four-year colleges, the percentage of students rating themselves as “below average” in emotional health rose. Meanwhile, the percentage of students who said their emotional health was above average fell to 52 percent. It was 64 percent in 1985.

Every year, women had a less positive view of their emotional health than men, and that gap has widened.

Campus counselors say the survey results are the latest evidence of what they see every day in their offices — students who are depressed, under stress and using psychiatric medication, prescribed even before they came to college.

The economy has only added to the stress, not just because of financial pressures on their parents but also because the students are worried about their own college debt and job prospects when they graduate.

“This fits with what we’re all seeing,” said Brian Van Brunt, director of counseling at Western Kentucky University and president of the American College Counseling Association. “More students are arriving on campus with problems, needing support, and today’s economic factors are putting a lot of extra stress on college students, as they look at their loans and wonder if there will be a career waiting for them on the other side.”

The annual survey of freshmen is considered the most comprehensive because of its size and longevity. At the same time, the question asking students to rate their own emotional health compared with that of others is hard to assess, since it requires them to come up with their own definition of emotional health, and to make judgments of how they compare with their peers.

“Most people probably think emotional health means, ‘Am I happy most of the time, and do I feel good about myself?’ so it probably correlates with mental health,” said Dr. Mark Reed, the psychiatrist who directs Dartmouth College’s counseling office.

“I don’t think students have an accurate sense of other people’s mental health,” he added. “There’s a lot of pressure to put on a perfect face, and people often think they’re the only ones having trouble.”

To some extent, students’ decline in emotional health may result from pressures they put on themselves.

While first-year students’ assessments of their emotional health were declining, their ratings of their own drive to achieve, and academic ability, have been going up, and reached a record high in 2010, with about three-quarters saying they were above average.

“Students know their generation is likely to be less successful than their parents’, so they feel more pressure to succeed than in the past,” said Jason Ebbeling, director of residential education at Southern Oregon University. “These days, students worry that even with a college degree they won’t find a job that pays more than minimum wage, so even at 15 or 16 they’re thinking they’ll need to get into an M.B.A. program or Ph.D. program.”

Other findings in the survey underscore the degree to which the economy is weighing on college students.

“Paternal unemployment is at the highest level since we started measuring,” said John Pryor, director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at U.C.L.A.’s Higher Education Research Institute, which does the annual freshman survey. “More students are taking out loans. And we’re seeing the impact of not being able to get a summer job, and the importance of financial aid in choosing which college they’re going to attend.”

“We don’t know exactly why students’ emotional health is declining,” he said. “But it seems the economy could be a lot of it.”

For many young people, serious stress starts before college. The share of students who said on the survey that they had been frequently overwhelmed by all they had to do during their senior year of high school rose to 29 percent from 27 percent last year.

The gender gap on that question was even larger than on emotional health, with 18 percent of the men saying they had been frequently overwhelmed, compared with 39 percent of the women.

There is also a gender gap, studies have shown, in the students who seek out college mental health services, with women making up 60 percent or more of the clients.

“Boys are socialized not to talk about their feelings or express stress, while girls are more likely to say they’re having a tough time,” said Perry C. Francis, coordinator for counseling services at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. “Guys might go out and do something destructive, or stupid, that might include property damage. Girls act out differently.”

Linda Sax, a professor of education at U.C.L.A. and former director of the freshman study who uses the data in research about college gender gaps, said the gap between men and women on emotional well-being was one of the largest in the survey.

“One aspect of it is how women and men spent their leisure time,” she said. “Men tend to find more time for leisure and activities that relieve stress, like exercise and sports, while women tend to take on more responsibilities, like volunteer work and helping out with their family, that don’t relieve stress.”

In addition, Professor Sax has explored the role of the faculty in college students’ emotional health, and found that interactions with faculty members were particularly salient for women. Negative interactions had a greater impact on their mental health.

“Women’s sense of emotional well-being was more closely tied to how they felt the faculty treated them,” she said. “It wasn’t so much the level of contact as whether they felt they were being taken seriously by the professor. If not, it was more detrimental to women than to men.”

She added: “And while men who challenged their professor’s ideas in class had a decline in stress, for women it was associated with a decline in well-being.” 

Written by Tamar Lewin for The New York Times
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Getting Ready for the SAT and ACT

Afraid of the big, bad tests? There are ways to declaw them. And don't worry about a poor result the first time around—soon you'll be able to hide any score you don't want colleges to see. More and more schools are making tests optional, but chances are you'll want to prepare anyway. So let's get started.

SAT or ACT? While more high schoolers still take the SAT than the ACT (1.5 million versus 1.3 million), virtually every college will accept either. The SAT is a logic and reasoning test; the ACT hews more closely to the high school curriculum. The ACT, considered the more straightforward test, has four sections, including science, and forgives gamblers (SAT takers, by contrast, are docked a quarter point for each incorrect answer). But the ACT has its challenges: The math goes up to trigonometry and precalculus (SAT math stops at Algebra II), and some find it a struggle to finish on time. Ned Johnson of PrepMatters Inc., a test-preparatory and educational counseling firm in Bethesda, Md., recommends you figure out which test you score better on and then focus on that. "Take the ACT early on, and then compare it to the PSAT," he suggests. "If you're dividing your energy between tests, it's likely to leave you divided and conquered."

Should I opt for the ACT writing section? Yes—because on the SAT, the writing section is required. "A lot of schools consider the ACT comparable to the SAT, but the only way they can accept it as a replacement is if students take the ACT with writing," explains Kortney Tambara, a counselor at Oxford Academy in Cypress, Calif. Last year, 41 percent of high schoolers who took the ACT opted for the writing section. It allows you to apply to a wider array of schools and is particularly useful if you're aiming high. The University of California system, for example, requires it.

Are prep classes worth it? Max Bochman, a senior at Taunton High School in Taunton, Mass., says classes helped him "feel more confident, like I had a good understanding of what was going to be on the test." Can't afford them? Many schools offer free or low-cost programs after class, so talk to your counselor. Check out Number2.com, a free test-prep site that adapts to your ability level. Or go the old-fashioned route and buy a book (for a humorous read, try the latest edition of Up Your Score: The Underground Guide to the SAT). Most important: Take a simulated test repeatedly, challenging yourself to do better each time. "Prep classes are only as good as the effort a student is willing to put into them," says Judith Koch-Jones, college and career center coordinator at University High School in Irvine, Calif.

What works best? Prep starts on the first day of high school, says Richard Bavaria, a senior vice president with Sylvan Learning. "Go to class every day, take notes, work with a study buddy, and get help early when you need it—don't wait!" he says. Want to make it entertaining? Lauren Pinheiro, a junior at Presentation High School in San Jose, Calif., crafted silly pickup lines using unusual words and shared them in a Facebook group. Examples: "Please don't reject me; I'm not that resilient"; "Girl, being that hot just ain't equitable." Cramming is less effective. It puts your grades in peril, throws your schedule out of whack, and makes you bad company.

Should I retake it? The ACT has long let students choose which scores to send to colleges and which to hide. Starting in March, students taking the SAT will be able to do the same thing—so there's much to gain and little to lose from retaking the test. For those taking the SAT, students gain an average of 40 points on the first retest (it goes down after that). The ACT says more than 55 percent increase their composite score upon retesting. Of course, there's a point where you should call it quits. "Hopefully, young people have better things to do with their Saturday mornings than take standardized tests," says Johnson.

Written by Lucia Graves for U.S. News and World Report
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Best Values in Public Colleges 2011

Despite shrinking budgets, these 100 schools deliver a stellar education at an affordable price.

As colleges and universities across the U.S. struggle with shrinking budgets and increased enrollment, here’s the takeaway for soon-to-matriculate students: Look for schools that deliver an outstanding, affordable education in good times and bad. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, ranked Kiplinger’s number-one best value for public colleges and universities for a remarkable ten times running, is a prime example. Carolina’s admission rate remains among the lowest on our annual list; its students are among the most competitive; and its in-state cost, at $17,000, is not much higher than the average price ($16,140) for all public universities. For students who qualify for need-based aid, the total price for this top-tier university drops to an average of $7,020.
Carolina’s performance is all the more exceptional considering the current climate for public higher education. Over the past few years, states have cut funding for colleges and universities by tens of millions of dollars. Enrollment and the demand for financial aid have surged. Federal stimulus funding, which provided crucial support, will soon run out, and Medicaid continues to deplete state coffers. “Everywhere you look, there is less money,” says Shirley Ort, director of the office of scholarships and student aid at Chapel Hill. Unlike past shortfalls, this one will likely affect higher education in “significant and probably permanent ways,” says Charles Lenth, of the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

In Kiplinger's annual assessment of best value, they identify the public schools that, like Carolina, deliver the best BA for the buck. They start with academic quality, including the school's student-faculty ratio, its admission rate and its four-year graduation rate. They then factor in affordability, such as the total cost of attendance with or without financial aid.

Binghamton University (SUNY), ranked sixth overall, takes the number-one spot for out-of-state value for the third time in a row. It's an honor the school's president, C. Peter Magrath, might prefer to forgo. He complains that tuition is too low for a university whose admission rate, at 33%, rivals top schools such as UNC-Chapel Hill. Out-of-state students pay a total of $27,535 to attend Binghamton, less than the national average of $28,130. The state legislature recently rejected a proposal to transfer control over tuition -- and increases -- to the SUNY schools but will probably revisit the issue, says Magrath. Memo to non-New Yorkers: Grab this deal now.

Perennial stars in our rankings include the University of Florida (number two) and the New College of Florida (number 11), both of which offer strong academics at a sticker price below $15,000. New College, a tiny honors school with a spectacular view of Sarasota Bay, drops the price to less than half that amount for in-staters who qualify for need-based aid. For a rock-bottom $4,545, students get the view, the company of other highly competitive students and a 10-1 student-faculty ratio. The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (number 48) earns top honors in the student-faculty category, with a ratio of 8-1.

Two Virginia schools deserve special Kiplinger kudos for consistently maintaining their position among our top five since our first rankings, in 1998. The University of Virginia (number three) and the College of William and Mary (number four) each draw high-scoring incoming freshmen and post the highest four-year graduation rates on our list, delivering degrees to more than 80% of their students in four years and more than 90% in six. UVA also brings its cost after aid to students with need to less than $6,000.

Virtually all of the schools we list raised their price in 2010-11, but the University of Maryland, which maintained a tuition freeze for four straight years, kept this year's total cost increase to less than $600. The first-class flagship continues its march up our rankings, moving from number eight last year to number five in 2010-11. As for the lowest sticker price, that distinction belongs to the University of North Carolina at Asheville (number 58). In-state students pay only $12,762. Appalachian State (number 35), in Boone, N.C., runs just a few dollars more, at $12,775.

Faced with a state budget crisis of epic proportions, University of California schools were forced to bump up costs by as much as $3,500 a year for in-state students and more than $4,000 for out-of-state students, pushing several UC schools past the $50,000 mark. Despite the price hikes, UC schools stand out for their relatively low average debt and impressively high six-year graduation rates. Out-of-staters who can afford to pay UC's private-school prices will find opportunity in California's crisis: UC schools have opened the doors wide to nonresidents, the better to collect that out-of-state tuition premium.

Be it perspicacity or plain luck, Carolina finished a major capital campaign at the end of 2007, just before the recession. Still, the current austerity has meant raising tuition by almost $1,000 this year and pruning operating costs to the tune of $36 million annually, mostly by streamlining administrative expenses. "Efficiency enhances our ability to meet our academic goals," says Chancellor Holden Thorp. The university recently hired 120 junior faculty members, expanded its honors program and introduced an enrichment program for top freshmen. "Decisions were made with an eye to providing students not just with a low-cost education but also with a great one," says Stephen Farmer, director of undergraduate admissions.

Carolina is willing to pony up to ensure affordability. "One of the things that have helped us remain a good value is the commitment the university has to funding need-based aid," says UNC's Ort. Carolina continues to meet the full need of students who qualify despite a 35% increase over the past two years in the number of students who qualify for financial aid. Financial aid offsets the tuition increase for students with need.

Such policies allow UNC to attract the best students that North Carolina (and the country) has to offer -- and Thorp intends to keep it that way. He aims to prevent in-state students from straying to elite competitors, such as Harvard or UVA, and has been known to call prospective students to make his case. "It's great to say to a parent, 'Your daughter is a great student. Please put her on the phone.'"

Jerry Bowens, a sophomore from Charlotte, N.C., found his way to Chapel Hill not by a phone call but through the Carolina College Advising Corps, which helps North Carolina high school students get through the college admissions process. At Bowens's high school, "a lot of people felt lost and didn't go to college," he says. With the adviser's help, Bowens not only was admitted to UNC-Chapel Hill but also scored a full ride through the Carolina Covenant, which provides no-loan financial aid to students in the program. Says Bowens, who participates in a student hip-hop group, plays a main role in General College (the campus soap opera) and plans to study abroad, "Being here, finding a niche, things that cater to my interests -- it's a perfect fit for me."

Written by Jane Bennett Clark for Kiplinger
Posted by Lindy Kahn, M.A., CEP for Kahn Educational Group, LLC

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