Sandy Hook outreach, etextbooks, twitter, overseas trip for teachers, failing algebra
Last week, I wrote about how few Hispanic characters there are in the children’s books and it got me thinking about role models. I wondered how many Hispanic teachers there are in Sonoma. It turns out that this year, 53 percent of the students in Sonoma Valley public schools are Hispanic, and according to the school district human resources department, only 1 percent of the teachers in our classrooms self-identify as being of Hispanic heritage. While that is surprising, four of our nine school principals are of Hispanic heritage.
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The University of Connecticut has created a scholarship in honor of the school-shooting victims. The scholarship fund will pay the college costs of Sandy Hook students who are accepted to attend the university at any point in the future. The university will also offer the scholarship money to siblings of the students killed in the attack and children of the adults who died.
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When school resumes for Sandy Hook students, it will be in a different location. Volunteers are working to ensure that the students are welcomed back by a winter wonderland with their new classrooms decorated with as many unique snowflakes as possible. Families or classrooms wishing to participate should make and send snowflakes by Saturday, Jan. 12, to: Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514. Donations will be accepted indefinitely to the “Sandy Hook Fund” to provide ongoing support to the community. To contact Sandy Hook PTA, email email@example.com.
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I was really moved by Sonoma Valley High School teacher Peter Hansen’s unprompted blog post to his students after the tragedy at Sandy Hook:
The senseless violence of today weighs upon me, as it does throughout our community and nation. As a teacher, I recognize my opportunity and obligation to affect positive change, to create a shift towards light, hope, and love of community. As I age into my teaching profession, I more fully understand my role as mentor, and educator beyond curriculums. I value the ability to make a difference in how our youth process and interpret the world beyond high school. God willing, I will continue to encourage our youth towards actions of light and love. There is no other way.
Full-time teachers and administrators (elementary through high school) should consider applying for a free teacher seminar overseas, sponsored by the U.S. State Department. This is through the same program that brought my daughter to China last summer (all expenses paid). Selected teachers spend two to six weeks in the summer in Brazil, Portugal, India or China and agree to host a teacher from one of those countries during the following school year. The first deadline is Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. Apply and learn more at: americancouncils.org/program/4a/EDSPO/. The chances of being accepted range from 1 in 3 to 1 in 15, so it’s not impossible.
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California students who fail algebra and repeat the course are very likely to fail it again, according to a new report, bringing into question the significant dollars spent on remediation for these students. In the 24 school districts studied (24,000 students), one-third of all students had to repeat Algebra I (either in ninth or 10th grade). Of those who took the class in eighth grade and repeated it in ninth, just one in five scored at a proficient level on standardized tests. For freshmen who repeated algebra in sophomore year, only 9 percent later tested proficient. Neal Finkelstein, the lead researcher on the study, said we shouldn’t be too surprised as these students tend to be taught algebra the second time the same way, sometimes by the same teacher. Not a single student who earned below a grade of D in seventh-grade math went on to take calculus in high school, according to researchers. It is my understanding that Sonoma is experiencing similar challenges, which is why the school district is trying programs like Algebra Boot Camp to try to break the trend.
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Boundless.com is a free online textbook platform that hopes to save students money and help them to learn more efficiently. It uses open source documents and information to recreate college textbooks for free, and it has expanded into study guides and tools. You can use Boundless on any device, any time, anywhere.
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Also worth checking out is Bookboon, a Danish company that provides free ebooks and expects to have 50 million downloads this year. The site is free, as it is supported by ads. Interestingly, the site originates in a part of the world (Europe) where textbooks are much more reasonably-priced than they are here.
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I have been skeptical about etextbooks (because many are still so costly) but a recent survey of high school students found some interesting reasons why students prefer them: instant access, portability, the ability to search within the text, the ability to highlight text, and the presence of interactive study guides/quizzes. Only 7 percent of those surveyed said they prefer traditional textbooks (edudemic.com).
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Around 65 percent of the world’s population has no access to Internet and, as a result, cannot take advantage of the advances in free online learning now available. Khan Academy is offering a new web app that provides its core content (videos and exercises) without needing Internet connectivity. KA Lite can be accessed at kalite.adhocsync.com and information then downloaded for use in places where there is no Internet access. I’m thinking you could also download videos for long car and plane trips for your child.
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Every high school student should consider getting a Twitter account. Why? There are dozens of scholarships, essay contests and competitions for middle school, high school and college students posted every day on Twitter. The hot links make it easy to get more information. Students who love to write can promote their blogs and find out about writing contests, opportunities and internships. Best of all, students can also connect with (follow) professionals in their fields of interest and learn about grants, summer jobs and research from notable educators. Students can get news from Sonoma High and seniors can learn what is happening on campus at the colleges they are interested in attending. You can also follow me @svhighered for tips on college applications, the kind of research I write about here, enrichment and more.
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An upcoming benefit at The Kenwood Farmhouse will support Kenwood Elementary School’s art program and Souluna, a new, well-being center, located at the Farmhouse. The event on Saturday, Jan. 19 from 3 to 9 p.m. includes multiple music venues, local food and wine and a silent auction. A donation of $20 at the door is requested to support these programs.
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El Verano School’s Universidad de padres group recently invited Carmen Van Horn from the California Parenting Institute to talk about positive parenting. The organization, which was created by parent Mario Castillo and Principal Maite Iturri, invites speakers to come to the school a few times a year and to present in Spanish. Parents decide on the topic and relevant speakers are approached. Next, Universidad de padres is planning a trip to Sonoma State University in January to tour the campus and speak to students. A parent asked Iturri how he could help his daughter get to college if he had never seen one. That inspired the trips and the focus on college. Along the same lines, earlier this month, Gustavo Flores, admissions director at SSU, spoke to the El Verano parents about college admissions.
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At the most recent school board meeting, the latest numbers were released for the percentage of Sonoma Valley students ages 5 to 17 who are eligible for free and reduced lunch (based on family income) at each of our local schools. The statewide average is 56.7 percent. Our school percentages are as follows:
Adele Harrison – 54.57 percent
Altimira Middle – 72.26 percent
Dunbar Elementary – 79.66 percent
El Verano Elementary – 94.12 percent
Flowery Elementary – 68.48 percent
Prestwood Elementary – 29.48 percent
Sassarini Elementary – 80 percent
Sonoma Valley High – 47.92 percent
To qualify, a family of four must have income of $41,000 or less (CA Dept. of Education).
– W.B. Yeats