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Science standards, SRJC, essay contest, free audio books, Northeastern, ADD and dyslexia apps

Schools Education

Lorna Sheridan/Index-Tribune Education Editor

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The Republic of Thrift on Highway 12 has donated another $11,000 to Sonoma Valley Public Schools to kick-off the new school year. Sisters Jeannette Tomany and Michelle Mammini opened Republic of Thrift in February 2012. Although they already operate similar to a nonprofit, with 100 percent of net profits donated to the schools, they are currently pending IRS approval of their nonprofit 501(c)(3) status. Their mission is to provide a consistent revenue source for public schools in our Valley. Republic of Thrift accepts gently used clothing, shoes, furniture, housewares, etc. 17496 Sonoma Highway (republicofthrift.com).

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California just became the sixth state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards but there is still no formal timeline for implementing them. The new science standards stress problem solving, critical thinking and concepts that cut across difference science disciplines. They emphasize scientific thinking and big ideas instead of memorization different and focus on the connection between what a student learns in school and what a scientist might use in the workplace. Teachers, academics and experts worked for two years to develop the standards. Sadly, this year’s state budget contains no money to train teachers in the new standards and the curriculum framework still needs to be developed.

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Alumni of the Gingerbread House Childcare & Preschool in Boyes Hot Springs were sad to hear about the retirement of Barbara Mannle, and the subsequent closing of the school after 43 years. Mannle is credited as having helped to raise several generations of Valley children. A retirement party was held in her honor in August. Some fun facts? Ken Brown was once a teacher at GBH, called “Uncle Ken” by the children. The Gingerbread House may have been the longest running preschool in Sonoma. There is a Facebook group where alums and parents can share memories. facebook.com/groups/573458672700177.

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October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month. Did you know an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of our nation’s school children show signs of dyslexia? My daughter is one of them. I have found that the International Dyslexia Association website is the best resource out there for more information: interdys.org. Was your child slow to learn to read or currently a very slow reader? I recommend speaking first with your school’s learning specialist about the possibility of dyslexia, but you can also try another free app: Dyslexia Detector. (itunes.apple.com).

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High school juniors and seniors and their parents should consider attending the college and career fair at Windsor High School today (Sept. 10) from 6 to 8 p.m. 50 different schools will be handing out materials and answering questions. No reservation necessary.

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Each year, the Veterans of Foreign Wars sponsors two student essay contests. For high school students, there is the Voice of Democracy Oral Essay and for middle school, the Patriot’s Pen Written Essay. Cash awards are given at the post, district, state and national levels. This year’s topics are: VOD: “Why I’m Optimistic About Our Nation’s Future” and Patriot’s Pen: “What Patriotism Means to Me.” Essays and applications are due to the local Sonoma VFW post on Nov. 1. For more information and application forms visit vfw.org/Community/Programs.

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I am excited to tout another math app that is really terrific. Wuzzit Trouble, from InnerTube games, was developed by Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin (the NPR Math Guy). What is unique is the game’s ability to teach multiple skills simultaneously. Players are able to practice and develop math skills and comprehension appropriate to their particular age and skill level. (innertubegames.net)

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There is a new ranking that cites 12 colleges as delivering a terrific bang for the buck. The ranking looked at student debt upon graduation, starting salaries, tuition and room and board for four-year universities, and graduation rates. The top schools from 1 to 12 are: University of Cincinnati, Ohio University, San Diego State University, University of Houston, Western Michigan University, West Virginia University, University of Arizona, University of Texas, George Mason University, the University of Maryland (Baltimore County), University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M University. It is really nice to see some unexpected names on that list. It is limiting when high school students all focus on the same handful of colleges. (policynic.com)

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Speaking of colleges, Sonoma Valley High invites about a dozen universities to campus each fall to present to interested juniors and seniors. Last week, I attended the presentation by Northeastern University (Boston). Its five-year work experience/business and entrepreneur curriculum is really catching fire. Experiential learning has been Northeastern’s calling card for years and many other schools are now copying its emphasis on gaining substantive work experience during college (northeastern.edu).

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The high school homework club on campus at the No Name Café is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3 p.m. Students are urged to get a head start on good grades by coming to the Homework Club and meeting the volunteer tutors who are eager to help.

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I am a huge fan of the website StumbleUpon. You enter in your interests (education, college, wine, travel, whatever) and each time you enter the site it has accumulated dozens of interesting articles and sites for you to look at. You can quickly swipe between stories. (stumbleupon.com)

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The website Librophile offers thousands of full-length free audio books and eBooks. Currently up for grabs: “The Wizard of Oz,” “Grimm’s Fairy Tales,” “Homer’s Odyssey,” “The Red Badge of Courage,” “Moby Dick” and hundreds more. If you have a child who doesn’t love to read, definitely try audio books. They are a big hit with our son. He listens for hours while shooting hoops in the driveway. (librophile.com)

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I don’t know if their idea will gain any traction, but the largest charter school organization in California thinks it knows how to curb the high levels of teacher turnover and completely revamp teacher training. Aspire Public Schools’ Teacher Residency Program is approaching teacher education the way medical schools educate doctors – combining education theory, classroom practice, and intensive coaching and mentorship. You can read more about it at one of my favorite new websites – good.is: good.is/posts/developing-better-teachers-by-training-them-like-medical-school-residents.

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ADD/HD expert Dr. Kevin Ross Emery has developed a first-of-its-kind, free “Managing the Gift” app, aimed at revealing the potential of children with ADD/HD. Unlike other ADHD apps that are self-diagnostic or generalized, this app provides custom-tailored reports to help determine how best to parent, guide, support, and educate children living with ADHD and ADD. One feature is a personalized interactive tool that defines a child’s distinct ADD/HD personality. (itunes.apple.com/us/app/id591659682)

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California’s Quality Education Investment Act of 2006 directed money to a number of at-risk schools. The subsequent results provided some key findings:

• Smaller classes result in better learning environments for students, more instructional time, and decreased workload for teachers

• Teacher collaboration cultivates stronger professional communities, greater collective accountability, increased cohesion among teachers, and more effective data use.

• Professional development chosen by teachers and tightly aligned to school goals is both influential and relevant.

The school the research cited most, Harmon John Elementary in Sacramento, had a relatively high API (Academic Performance Index) score last year of 782 (out of 1000) – despite 70 percent of students being English learners and nearly all being low-income enough to qualify for free or reduced-price meals. (cta.org)

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Take a moment to check out this column and the Our Schools page online at sonomanews.com/our-schools. The Index-Tribune has launched a new website and I would like your feedback. Past columns can be found on the archive there as well as on my blog at educationroundupnational.com (minus the Sonoma school news).