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Fixing Public Education: Early Childhood Learning Crucial for Student Success

NewsWeek – Maryanne J. Kane

Without being too smug, I have the answer to the success (or failure) of public education. Please bear with me. Our school district, like many school districts, prepares earnestly for the dreaded PSSA tests. Our school district, like many school districts, continues to score low. After each notification of our PSSA disappointing results, heart-wretching reflection occurs with our teachers, our parents, our administrators. What happened? What interventions in math and reading classes could have been included in our preparations? After looking inward, we next search exterior reasons for our low scores. A frequent explanation being the PSSA tests do not adequately reflect student growth. Even as a music teacher, I too am engrossed, obsessed, continually perplexed with the gravity of high stakes testing of young children. Even as a music teacher, I too become “certified” to administer the PSSA tests. Months in advanced, even as a music teacher, I too take small groups of children for extra reading support. I sharpen and re-sharpen #2 pencils with an eraser on top. I actively moderate testing sessions by continually walking up and down rows of aisles.”(more)

Financial literacy education in schools is not dead

Benefits Pro – Kristen Beckman

When my boys were in fifth grade, for instance, their entire class participated in a financial education unit focused on teaching business, economics and free enterprise by creating a town as a class project. The students had to apply for a job by creating a resume, getting letters of recommendation and interviewing with adult volunteers. They had to elect a mayor from four candidates who campaigned, made posters and gave speeches. They had to learn about income, including paying taxes, and how to balance a checkbook. And they had to learn how to price the products and services their businesses would sell based on supply and demand.”(more)

Quantity vs. Quality: How to Make your Extracurricular Activities Meaningful

The Huffington Post – Pooja Yesantharao and Ishan Puri

“Admission to your dream college is not only contingent on academic success, but also your extracurricular work. College admission officers want to know you as more than just a number- they want to know what makes you tick – what are you passionate about, what drives you? Many students are convinced that they need to build up a huge resume, with pages and pages of activities that they are involved in. However, admissions officers do not want to see a resume with hundreds of activities, each of which you only spent a small amount of time on. They know that as a student, you only have a limited amount of time beyond your academic obligations, and they want to see that you use that time to truly pursue your interests and passions. Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue diverse activities or interests, but whatever you do choose to pursue, you should make meaningful.”(more)

Kids in crisis: One-third of California 11th-graders surveyed say they are chronically sad

The Mercury News – Sharon Noguchi

“In a potential crisis crossing demographic lines, one-third of California’s 11th-graders and one-quarter of seventh-graders reported feeling chronically sad or hopeless over the past 12 months, a survey released Monday showed. The California Healthy Kids Survey also found that about 19 percent of both ninth-graders and 11th-graders seriously considered attempting suicide. When it comes to depression and anxiety among high school students, the trend “is not moving in the right direction,” said Anne Ehresman, executive director of Project Cornerstone, which focuses on building child-supporting communities and runs programs in more than 200 schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.”(more)

Showing girls the way to careers in STEM

The Miami Herald – Christina Veiga

“Yoldine Nicoleau stuffed a strawberry into a Ziploc bag and smashed it to a pulp. As about 20 other girls joined in, the science lab quickly filled with the sweet smell of fresh fruit and the sound of fists pounding on tables. This is what it takes to extract DNA from grocery store items. It’s also getting girls interested in what science looks, smells and sounds like. “This is fun for me,” said Nicoleau, a rising junior at Miami-Dade’s School for Advanced Studies. “I feel comfortable. I enjoy it. I’m around people who understand me.” For a week this summer, a group of young women from across Miami-Dade County got a hands-on introduction to working in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. They were all selected for Columbia University’s highly competitive Girls in STEM program. The goal: to help more women break through gender barriers in the often male-dominated world of STEM.”(more)

Low math confidence discourages female students from pursuing STEM disciplines

Science Magazine – Maggie Kuo

“Female college students are 1.5 times more likely than their male counterparts to leave science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) after taking the first course in the calculus series, new research finds. The study, published last week in PLOS ONE, supports what many educators have observed and earlier studies have documented: A lack of confidence in mathematical ability, not mathematical capability itself, is a major factor in dissuading female students from pursuing STEM. The researchers followed 2266 undergraduate students at 129 2- and 4-year colleges and universities who were enrolled in Calculus I, the first course in a calculus series that is often a prerequisite for studying STEM disciplines in the United States. Overall, students were more likely to continue with calculus if they were planning for careers in engineering, had good instructors, or had previously scored well on math SAT and ACT standardized tests, the researchers found. However, when comparing students with the same background, experience, and plans, female students were on average 1.5 times more likely than males to stop studying calculus, “effectively choosing to exit the STEM pipeline,” the authors write.”(more)