Archive | April, 2012

The love affair with the Finnish education system

17 Apr

In U.S. education failure: Running out of excuses, moi said:

Education tends to be populated by idealists and dreamers who are true believers and who think of what is possible. Otherwise, why would one look at children in second grade and think one of those children could win the Nobel Prize or be president? Maybe, that is why education as a discipline is so prone to fads and the constant quest for the “Holy Grail” or the next, next magic bullet. There is no one answer, there is what works for a particular population of kids.

Many educators around the world have a love affair with the Finnish education system. The question is what if anything which is successful about the Finnish system can be transported to other cultures?

The Pearson Foundation lists some key facts about Finland in their video series, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education

Key facts

Finland’s society is relatively homogeneous. Out of a population of 5.3 million, only 3.8% are foreign-born, against an OECD average of 12.9%. Finland spends 5.9% of its gross domestic product on education, slightly above the OECD average of 5.2%.

  • Finland recruits its teachers from the top 10% of graduates. From primary through upper secondary level, all teachers are required to have a Master’s degree.
  • Finnish teachers spend 592 hours per year teaching in class, less than the OECD average of 703 hours. This allows more time for supporting students with learning difficulties.
  • At least two out of five Finnish school students benefit from some type of special intervention during their secondary schooling.


Finland was the top performer in the PISA 2000 tests and it has consistently featured among the top performers since then. In 2009, the number of Finnish students reaching the top level of performance in science was three times the OECD average.

  • Upper secondary students are expected to design their own individual learning programs within a modular structure.
  • In 2008, Finland’s upper secondary graduation rate was 93%, against an OECD average of 80%.
  • In 2008, more than 40% of Finns between 20 and 29 were enrolled at university, well above the OECD average of 25%.

Pasi Sahlberg urges a measured analysis in his Washington Post article.

Pasi Sahlberg, author of “ Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn About Educational Change in Finland? ” writes in the Washington Post article, What the U.S. can’t learn from Finland about ed reform:

What I have to say, however, is not always what they want to hear. While it is true that we can certainly learn from foreign systems and use them as backdrops for better understanding of our own, we cannot simply replicate them. What, then, can’t the United States learn from Finland?

First of all, although Finland can show the United States what equal opportunity looks like, Americans cannot achieve equity without first implementing fundamental changes in their school system. The following three issues require particular attention.

Funding of schools: Finnish schools are funded based on a formula guaranteeing equal allocation of resources to each school regardless of location or wealth of its community.

Well-being of children: All children in Finland have, by law, access to childcare, comprehensive health care, and pre-school in their own communities. Every school must have a welfare team to advance child happiness in school.

Education as a human right: All education from preschool to university is free of charge for anybody living in Finland. This makes higher education affordable and accessible for all.

As long as these conditions don’t exist, the Finnish equality-based model bears little relevance in the United States.

Second, school autonomy and teacher professionalism are often mentioned as the dominant factors explaining strong educational performance in Finland. The school is the main author of curricula. And the teacher is the sole authority monitoring the progress of students.

In Finland, there is a strong sense of trust in schools and teachers to carry out these responsibilities. There is no external inspection of schools or standardized testing of all pupils in Finland. For our national analysis of educational performance, we rely on testing only a small sample of students. The United States really cannot leave curriculum design and student assessment in the hands of schools and teachers unless there is similar public confidence in schools and teachers. To get there, a more coherent national system of teacher education is one major step.

Finland is home to such a coherent national system of teacher education. And unlike in the United States, teaching is one of the top career choices among young Finns. Teachers in Finland are highly regarded professionals — akin to medical doctors and lawyers. There are eight universities educating teachers in Finland, and all their programs have the same high academic standards. Furthermore, a research-based master’s degree is the minimum requirement to teach in Finland.

Teaching in Finland is, in fact, such a desired profession that the University of Helsinki, where I teach part-time, received 2,300 applicants this spring for 120 spots in its primary school teacher education program. In this teacher education program and the seven others, teachers are prepared to design their own curricula, assess their own pupils’ progress, and continuously improve their own teaching and their school. Until the United States has improved its teacher education, its teachers cannot enjoy similar prestige, public confidence and autonomy.

Third, many education visitors to Finland expect to find schools filled with Finnish pedagogical innovation and state-of-the-art technology. Instead, they see teachers teaching and pupils learning as they would in any typical good school in the United States. Some observers call this “pedagogical conservatism” or “informal and relaxed” because there does not appear to be much going on in classrooms.

See, Are Finnish schools the best in the world?

There are probably some lessons which can be learned from the Finnish experience, but we shouldn’t be looking through rose colored glasses.


Is it true that the dumbest become teachers?

The next great civil rights struggle: Disparity in education funding

3rd world America: The link between poverty and education

There is no “magic bullet” or “Holy Grail” in education, there is only what works for a given population of children to produce education achievement.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Startup America: Urging recent grads to become entrepreneurs

16 Apr

In times of entrenched long-term unemployment, job creation becomes crucial. Bonnie Kavoussi reports in the Huffington Post article, Unemployed College Graduates As Vulnerable As High School Dropouts To Long-Term Unemployment: Report:

College graduates and advanced degree holders, once they are unemployed, are as vulnerable as high school dropouts to long-term joblessness, a new study has found.

Thirty five percent of unemployed college graduates and those with advanced degrees have been without a job for more than a year, the same rate as unemployed high school dropouts, according to a Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative study published Wednesday. In fact, the long-term unemployment rate, for those 25 and older without a job, is nearly the same across all levels of educational attainment, the report says.

“A slowly rising number of job vacancies…hurts people regardless of their educational attainment,” said Gary Burtless, labor economist at the liberal think tank Brookings Institution. Nonetheless, he added: “Relatively speaking, there’s still a payoff to going to college. The college degree still has some vaccination effects against becoming a long-term unemployed person.”

Indeed, getting a college degree is a good bet for avoiding unemployment in the first place. The unemployment rate of college graduates who are at least 25 years old is just 4.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In contrast, 13.8 percent of high school dropouts, 8.7 percent of high school graduates, and 7.7 percent of college dropouts are unemployed.

The percentage of the labor force that faces long-term unemployment is at a record high of 2.8 percent, according to the Pew report. Thirteen million Americans are unemployed, 4 million (or 31 percent) of whom have been unemployed for more than a year.

As more and more college grads find themselves unemployed, they are looking for ways to earn a living.

Mary Beth Marklein has written the USA Today article, Programs encourage new grads to try entrepreneurship:

About 45 newly minted college graduates begin training in June to work for two years with small start-ups in struggling communities through a just-launched non-profit called Venture for America. Companies in Colorado and Massachusetts are offering paid summer internships to college students and new graduates through Startup America, a national initiative. A competition at Harvard, which opened an innovation lab in November, is providing funds and workspace to teams of students who have proposed ideas such as a car-sharing business in India and a restaurant offering interactive menus.

The flurry of opportunities reflects the mixed job picture for young adults. Corporations plan to hire 10% more new graduates this year compared with 2011, says a survey last month by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which tracks job hiring trends for recent graduates.

Even so, employers scaled back on hiring in March, according to the latest Labor Department data, and younger workers were hardest hit. By the end of 2011, just 54% of 18- to-24-year-olds were employed, the lowest rate since the Labor Department began collecting the data in 1948, says a Pew Research Center report released in February.

“The majority of students are … taking what they can get,” says Clint Borchard, 30, a junior at the University of Nevada-Reno, who, with classmates, plans to launch a company this summer that manufactures affordable homes powered mostly by renewable energy. The business plan, which anticipates creating 40 jobs within five years, is a finalist in an inaugural campus competition aimed at spurring regional growth. The winning team will get $50,000.

On average, entrepreneurs are about 43 when they launch their companies, says the Kauffman Foundation, a research group that studies entrepreneurship. It says lack of access to capital and concerns about paying off student loans are among barriers for younger entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial survey

A November 2011 survey of 500 entrepreneurs ages 21-24 found:

• 30% started a business in college. Up from 19% in 2010.

• 29% are self-employed. Up from 20% in 2010.

• 72% said they do not feel they have enough support from banks. Up from 65% in 2010.

• 92% said they felt entrepreneurship education was vital given the realities of the new economy and job market. Up from 90% in 2010.
Source: Young Entrepreneur Council and Buzz Marketing Group

Startup America is helping some of these young entrepreneurs get started.

Here is information about Startup America from the FAQ section of their site:

Q: What is the Startup America Partnership?

A. The Startup America Partnership is a private organization working to help young companies succeed in order to accelerate job growth in America. We’re bringing the private sector together to maximize the success of America’s entrepreneurs, and augment America’s competitiveness in an increasingly global world. We are an independent nonprofit entity (NGO) that was launched at the White House in early 2011.

Q: How are you helping startups?

A: We’re bringing together some of the country’s most successful organizations to provide valuable resources to young companies with high growth potential. We are focused on providing resources in five key areas: Talent, Services, Expertise, Customers and Capital. We are also working on a regional basis to identify and help accelerate entrepreneurial ecosystems across the country. 

Which startups are you helping?

A: We’ve classified the startup ecosystem into the following groups:

– Idea: Someone has an idea for a business but has not yet established it.

– Startup: At least two people have created a business entity with the ambition to build a scalable company.

– Rampup: A team of five or more people that has secured at least two customers and has a clear focus on customer growth.

– Speedup: A company that employs at least 25 people and has established a revenue run-rate of $10MM or more.

While we celebrate and have resources for those in the idea phase, we are focused on helping young companies that are currently startups, rampups or speedups.

Q: Why just “young companies”?

A: Companies less than five years old account for all of the net job growth in our country between 1980 and 2005. These firms have the potential to one day employ hundreds, if not thousands of workers. Of course, we love entrepreneurs of all stripes, but in order to drive significant job creation over the next 3 years, we are focused on existing startups that have the potential for high growth. These high-growth firms can be in any industry (tech, education, finance, etc.) and from any region of the country.

Q: How is the Startup America Partnership funded?

A: The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Case Foundation provided the initial funding for the Startup America Partnership. American Express OPEN, Dell Inc., Intuit Inc., and Microsoft are corporate sponsors. We have not received a dollar from any government organization.

Q: What is your relationship with the White House Administration?

A: We were launched at the White House in January 2011, and the Administration is a very important partner of ours with whom we work closely. However, we are not overseen or funded by the federal government. The Administration has its own Startup America initiative.

Q: Do you provide any capital or grants?

A: We are not a grant-making entity. We are partnering with a number of organizations who do invest in startups, in order to help get those funders in front of the young companies who may need their services.

Q: Who is leading the Startup America Partnership?

A: Our CEO is Scott Case, a proven entrepreneur who was the founding CTO of Our Chairman is Steve Case, AOL co-founder and current CEO and chairman of Revolution, LLC, and the chairman of the Case Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation also provides leadership to the Partnership.Our all-entrepreneur board can be seen here.

Q: How can potential partners get involved?

A: If you have products or services that benefit young companies, fill out our partner form and we’ll be in touch.

Q: How can startups get involved?

A: If you’re an entrepreneur running a young company, register here to access to our partner resources. 

The Startup America home can be accessed here

Serious Entrepreneur posts at their site, The Pros And Cons Of Entrepreneurship:

Some of the pros serious entrepreneurs enjoy include:

  • Independence – to be your own boss and make your own business decisions is a big plus of entrepreneurship.
  • Excitement – if you enjoy taking risks and adventure there’s a lot to be said for setting up your own business.
  • Rules – if you are someone who is constantly kicking against the rules of a regular organization then you should head out on your own.
  • Flexibility – there’s a great amount of flexibility in working for your self. You set your own timings and you get to balance your personal and professional life quite well this way – provided you don’t turn into a workaholic!

Some of the cons include:

  • Salary – you will not have the benefit or security of a steady income to provide the financial backing you are used to.
  • Risk – there is a huge element of risk, which if not managed properly can be a disadvantage.
  • Benefits – initially there will be few, if any benefits, when you are getting started.

Starting a new business is tough work with an element of risk. But, the next Google may be out there in the head and effort of some new grad.


Pros and Cons of New Grads Starting a Business

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Verifying identity for online courses

15 Apr

Cheating is increasingly a concern in education. Some colleges in an attempt to curb academic dishonesty on campus are beginning to employ methods one has usually associated with Las Vegas casinos. Minnesota State University Mankato has an excellent newsletter article about academic dishonesty. Richard C. Schimming writes in Academic Dishonesty

A recent survey found that 1/3 of all students admitted to cheating on an examination, 1/2 admitted to cheating on a class assignment, 2/3 admitted to cheating at least once during their college career, and 2/3 have seen classmates cheat on exams or assignments. Paradoxically, 3/4 of those in that survey believe that cheating is not justified under any circumstances. Finally, 1/2 of the students surveyed believe that the faculty of their university do not try to catch cheaters….

The various reasons that students give for cheating can also be instructive in obtaining a picture of academic dishonesty. Gleaned from a variety of sources, the list of student reasons for cheating given below is meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive:

  1. Today’s generation of student has less of an attachment to the institution so that cheating is more impersonal and seen as less painful because of this detachment.
  2. The difficult job market places a premium on a high grade point average so that any means necessary will be employed to achieve and maintain good grades.
  3. Some students believe that professors are cheating them in the classroom by shirking their teaching responsibilities. Therefore, students come to believe that turnabout is fair play.
  4. New entering students find themselves in courses beyond their capability so they resort to cheating to succeed in the course.

The metaphors and social constructs provided by students in surveys can also provide insight into the rationale for academic dishonesty. In one recent study, students used the following metaphors for cheating:

  1. Cheating is just a game, so that it is not important how you win but what is important is that you win.
  2. Cheating is an addiction. Once a student has successfully cheated in some academic context, the urge to continue can become addicting.
  3. Cheating is an easy out. Rather than working hard to master the material, a student can be tempted to use the shortcut of academic dishonesty.
  4. Cheating is a personal dilemma. Students do not begin to cheat because they are ignorant of the potential consequences. Rather the decision to cheat is a difficult decision for most students.
  5. Cheating is theft. The act of cheating robs the institution, the professor, the cheating student, and the other students.
  6. Cheating is a team effort. Cheating does not occur in a vacuum. Where there is a culture that condones cheating and where a student sees other students cheating, academic dishonesty is more likely to flourish.

Trip Gabriel has an interesting article in the New York Times about the University of Central Florida’s attempts to defeat cheaters. In To Stop Cheats, Colleges Learn Their Trickery

Gabriel describes attempts to stop cheating which resemble Las Vegas security.

George Watson and James Sottile of Marshall University have written the paper, Cheating in the Digital Age: Do Students Cheat More in Online Courses?

The focus of this study was on whether students cheat more in on-line or live courses, and, somewhat surprisingly, the results showed higher rates of academic dishonesty in live courses.  One possible explanation is that classroom social interaction in live classes plays some part in whether students decide to cheat, which would agree with the findings of Stuber-McEwen et al (2009).  Familiarity with fellow students may lessen moral objections to cheating as they work through assignments and assessments together over the course of a school term.  The findings that students believe more classmates will cheat in on-line courses than traditional classes are similar to the findings of King et al (2009).

While the study showed that cheating in on-line courses is no more rampant than cheating in live classes, one type of academically dishonest behavior does merit discussion for on-line course developers.  The data showed that students were significantly more likely to obtain answers from others during an on-line test or quiz.  This ability to receive answers without the monitoring of a professor, presents problems for the standard lecture-based, test-driven course.  Course developers should take extra precautions with regards to on-line tests or quizzes, either through having a test proctor, changing the type of assessment, or lowering the assessment’s value in relation to other course assignments.  In the example of test proctors, there are some instances in which faculty require students to be on campus to take exams, in person at a set date and time, to insure the person taking the test is the student enrolled in the class.  This approach can be cumbersome and may nullify the strength of online courses, which is the freedom to work on one’s own schedule at home….

The results on gender and academic class were mixed and, therefore, more difficult to garner conclusions.  Females were significantly more likely in online courses to admit to cheating and to have someone give them answers during a test or quiz, but in all other self-reported behaviors, no significant difference existed for gender.  It is difficult to determine from the data whether these differences accurately represented cheating behavior or if females were more honest in their survey responses or more ethical in their estimates of what constitutes academically dishonest behavior.  Academic class analysis showed significant differences for cheating and receiving assistance during tests and quizzes, but interestingly, the mean distributions were highest for freshmen and graduate students.  One could make the case that freshmen who cheat may not survive the rigors of collegiate academia, leaving fewer dishonest students in the upper classes, but that does not explain the scores for graduate students.

These results have implications for both the college professor and university administrators.  Students are already orientated to specific ethical behavior prior to entering college.  Since the college environment, either on-line or in the traditional classroom, is not an idealized environment, it is important for educators to address the need of moral or ethical development within each major.  The curriculum requirements for each academic major should involve a course in ethical behavior and moral development.  This course should be three credit hours and examine the process related to ethical resolution.  Every incoming first year student and transfer student should be required to complete a generalized ethics and moral development course.   It is unfortunate that both males and females self-report that they would cheat.  Given this behavior, professors and university administrators need to ensure that students who are caught cheating have to pay a consequence for such inappropriate behavior.  The college experience should instill a prominent level of ethical behavior in all students.  Such change should be proactive and the process of moral education should be driven by the need to help others.  According to Kohlberg’s (1984) research, education is one of the significant factors in increasing moral development.

There are strategies online education institutions can use to reduce cheating.

Distance Education.Org has a great article by Jennifer Williamson, Does Your Instructor Know It’s You? Issues in Verifying Online Student Identities:

While a recent study by Friends University shows that online students don’t cheat more than traditional students on the whole—and actually might cheat less—that doesn’t mean that online education isn’t vulnerable to cheating. And one major issue in preventing academic fraud in an online environment is demonstrated in the Florida case: the problem of student identity verification. How does your professor know it’s you taking that exam?

Here are a few ways online schools and instructors have been working to make sure they know the identity of students taking exams.


One of the most straightforward ways is insisting all important exams be proctored. This means you have to physically go to the school and take your exam in a room monitored by a proctor. Some schools may be able to arrange for you to take an exam in a remote location near your home, but even if this is possible for your school, this method does defeat the purpose of distance education to an extent—you have to leave the house or your workplace and travel to a test location, which could be problematic. It’s not ideal, but it is an easy way for professors to be sure it’s you taking the test.

Blackboard Acxiom

Many online degree programs use Blackboard to administer classes. Blackboard recently adopted an identity verification process powered by Acxiom, a risk mitigation company. With this software, you’ll have to enter the answers to verification questions, presumably set by you when you sign up for class, that only you can answer. The school using the software controls when students have to authenticate their identity. Of course, this isn’t a perfect solution as students could always simply tell their stand-ins the answers to their proprietary questions.

Certified IP locations

Under this system, also administered by Blackboard, teachers can specify the IP address where the student will take the test. This may allow you to take your test at your home computer, but teachers may also choose a computer for you to test on and then require you to come to campus to take the test in a proctored environment.

Remote proctor systems

There are a few remote proctoring systems, some of which are still being tested. One is the Securexam Remote Proctor System. It’s a small unit that plugs into the student’s USB port, with a fingerprint pad for identification—professors can choose how often during the test students are required to use it to identify themselves. It also includes a 365-degree camera that will alert the professor to anything strange happening in the room—like someone else walking in or speaking during the test. Professors don’t have to watch live; they can watch a recorded version of the test after it’s been taken. The device is purchased by students, and costs somewhere between $100 and $200 in most cases.

Remote proctoring systems may be the best way to assure student identity while keeping the benefits of online education intact; but still, the system isn’t perfect and some students find the costs hard to bear. Online student identification will need to evolve as online education has, to become easy, cost-effective for students and schools, and flexible. With time, hopefully online schools will have a more effective and cost-efficient way to verify online student identity and prevent academic fraud.–Issues-in-Verifying-Online-Student-Identities–

ABC News has a good report, A Cheating Crisis In America’s Schools

So far, there are no reports of colleges frisking students before they take their exams.


Accountability in virtual schools         

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Choosing the right college for you

15 Apr

Now that many students are receiving letters of acceptance from colleges, they are deciding which college is the best fit for them. Given the tight economy, cost is a major consideration. Beckie Supiano and Elyse Ashburn have written With New Lists, Federal Government Moves to Help Consumers and Prod Colleges to Limit Price Increases in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the Department of Education’s new site about college costs. The College Affordability and Transparency Center is useful for students who are applying to college. It allows parents and students to calculate the costs of various college options. Once the costs of various college options are considered, then other considerations come into the decision.

Danielle Moss Lee, president and chief executive officer of the Harlem Educational Activities Fund offers some great advice in the Washington Post article, Top 5 factors to weigh when picking a college (by May 1st deadline):

Here are the top five factors students across the country should be considering when making this critical decision:

1. Size. When it comes to choosing a college, it isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are significant differences between large and small colleges, and students need to decide what matters to them. Factors to consider include class size, teacher-to-student ratio, name recognition and what options are available on campus – research centers, sporting events, internship opportunities, clubs and organizations, course choices, faculty members and more.

2. Location. Part of the value of college is learning to live on your own, away from your family, and in a city you choose. Students should push themselves to learn how to be successful in a new environment but also still need a support system. Students should consider how far away they can be and still feel comfortable – for some it’s a short car or bus ride, for others it can be a cross-country flight.

3. Finances. Students and their families need to think carefully about the financial impact of their choices. With student loan debt above $1 trillion (surpassing credit card and auto-loan debt) students — especially those from low-income families like many students at the Harlem Educational Activities Fund — need to figure out what the numbers really mean. How much is need-based grant aid and how much is loan-based aid? What will it cost to travel to campus? What incidentals will be required? Will my mother or father need a second job? How many hours will I be allowed to work on campus?

4. Academic focus. Not every student knows what they “want to be when they grow up” and you don’t need to pick a major to pick a college. However, students should consider the variety of courses, curriculum and majors available.

5. ‘Expert’ opinion. Get some insight. Use your family and friends as a resource. Talk to the people you admire personally and professionally, as well as recent graduates who you might know, to find out what they consider the most important aspect of the college experience.

Once the decision is made to attend a particular college, the thought turns to how to cut the costs of college.

One way to cut the cost of college is to save on textbooks. Fin Aid’s article, Cutting the Cost of College Textbooks makes some useful suggestions.

There are several methods of saving money on textbook costs. These methods can typically save as much as half the cost of buying new textbooks from the college bookstore.

  • Buy used textbooks. The used textbooks may have notes in the margins, but sometimes this can be beneficial. Used textbooks often cost half the price of a new textbook.
  • Buy new textbooks and sell the textbooks back to the college bookstore at the end of the semester. The savings range from a quarter to half the cost of a new textbook. You will get more for your used textbook if you keep it in good condition. Your ability to sell the textbooks back to the bookstore depends on whether the same textbook will be used the next time the class is offered. The main drawback from reselling the textbook is that you won’t be able to keep the textbook.
  • Rent the textbook. Like selling the book back to the bookstore, this doesn’t let you keep the textbook. Usually this costs more than the net cost of buying a new textbook and selling it at the end of the semester.
  • Shop around for the best price on the textbook. Often you can buy the book online for a significant discount. The ISBN number listed in the course syllabi and class schedules help you find the same edition online. (If the syllabus doesn’t list the ISBNs for the books, you can find them on the publisher’s web site. Also look on the publisher’s web site for alternate formats that are less expensive, such as softcover editions and ebooks.) Many online bookstores that sell textbooks will deliver the textbooks in one or two days for free. Online bookstores and comparison tools are listed below.
  • Compare the latest edition of a textbook with the older edition. Sometimes the changes aren’t significant enough that you need to get the new edition, and older editions are often much less expensive on the used market. The main drawback is sometimes the page numbering is different in the latest edition, making it more difficult to identify the reading assignments.
  • Buy the ebook version of the textbook. Ebooks will save you some money over the cost of a print textbook, although not as much as you might expect. Ebooks also aren’t a perfect solution. Page numbers are different and more fluid than in the print versions of a textbook. Ebook readers like the Kindle DX are just as readable as print textbooks, especially outdoors, but currently can’t display color diagrams. The Apple iPad can display color diagrams, but the backlighting can cause eyestrain and is more difficult to read outdoors. Taking notes on an ebook is more difficult than writing a note in the margin on a print textbook or highlighting a passage. On the other hand, you can carry all of your ebooks on a single lightweight device.
  • Buy a re-imported international edition of the textbook. Publishers sell their textbooks at a much lower cost in other countries. However, the bindings are usually much flimsier and the page numbering may differ from the US editions.

Jenny L. Phipps of Bankrate.Com offers additional suggestions in Cutting the Cost of College Incidentals:

18 ways to cut the cost of college incidentals


Read the bill carefully.


Don’t get caught in a feeing frenzy.


Beware too much health care.


Go on a dorm-dining diet.


Pay on time.


Know the financial aid bottom line.


Vet the class schedule.


Look for ways to get ahead.


Consider cheaper alternatives.
10. Transfer advance-placement credits.
11. Buy smart.
12. Decorate creatively.
13. Forget the phone.
14. Eat at home.
15. Buy used books.
16. Look for cheap travel.
17. Devise a money delivery system.
18. Be sure the price is worth it.

Congratulations on your acceptance into college. Now the real work begins.


Five Ways to Cut the Cost of College                                

Secrets to paying for college                            

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Seattle Research Institute study about outside play

15 Apr

Play is important for children and outside play is particularly important. Kids Discover Nature has some excellent resources about outside play. In the post, 10 Reasons Why Kids Should Play Outside reasons for outside play are given.

1. K-12 students participating in environmental education programs at school do better on standardized tests in math, reading, writing and social studies.

Abrams, K.S. (1999). Summary of project outcomes from Environmental Education and Sunshine State Standards schools’ final report data. Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. New York: Algonquin Books. (p. 206) Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. New York: Algonquin Books. (p. 206)

2. Children and adults find it easier to concentrate and pay attention after spending time in nature.
Wells, N.M. (2000). At home with nature: Effects of “greenness” on children’s cognitive functioning. Environment and Behavior 32: 775-795.
Hartig, T., Mang, M., & Evans, G.W. (1991). Restorative effects of natural environment experiences. Environment and Behavior 23: 3-26.

3. Nature provides a rich source of hands-on, multi-sensory stimulation, which is critical for brain development in early childhood.
Rivkin, M.S. Natural Learning.

4. Children’s play is more creative and egalitarian in natural areas than in more structured or paved areas.
Faber Taylor, A., Wiley, A., Kuo, F.E. & Sullivan, W.C. (1998). Growing up in the inner city: Green spaces as places to grow. Environment and Behavior 30(1): 3-27.

5. Living in “high nature conditions” buffers children against the effects of stressful life events.
Wells, N. & Evans, G. (2003). Nearby nature: A buffer of life stress among rural children. Environment and Behavior 35: 311-330.
Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. New York: Algonquin Books.

6. Views of nature reduce stress levels and speed recovery from illness, injury or stressful experiences.
Frumkin, H. (2001). Beyond toxicity: Human health and the natural environment. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 20(3): 234-240.
Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. New York: Algonquin Books.

7. The ultimate raw material for much of human intellect, emotion, personality, industry, and spirit is rooted in a healthy, accessible, and abundant natural environment.
Kellert, Stephen R. (2005). Building for Life: Designing and Developing the Human-Nature Connection.Washington: Island Press.

8. Access to nature nurtures self discipline.
Source: Faber Taylor, A., Kuo, F.E., & Sullivan, W.C. (2002). Views of Nature and Self-Discipline: Evidence from Inner City Children. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 22, 49-63.

9. Nearby Nature Boosts Children’s Cognitive functioning.
Source: Wells, N.M. At Home with Nature: Effects of “Greenness” on Children’s Cognitive Functioning. Environment and Behavior. Vol. 32, No. 6, 775-795.

10. Children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention-deficit disorder (ADD) showed reduce symptoms after playing in natural areas.
Kuo, F.E. & Faber Taylor, A. (2004). A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health 94(9):1580-1586.

A study by Seattle Research Institute reinforces these findings.

Here is the Seattle Research Institute press release:

Nearly Half of Preschool Children Not Taken Outside to Play by Parents on a Daily Basis: Study

April 02, 2012

Girls less likely to play outside compared with boys

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatric healthcare providers promote active healthy living by encouraging children to play outside as much as possible.  Being outdoors correlates strongly with physical activity for children, which is important for preventing obesity in the preschool years and on through adulthood.  A new study led by Pooja Tandon, MD, MPH, of Seattle Children’s Research Institute found that nearly half of preschoolers in a sample representing four million U.S. children did not have even one parent-supervised outdoor play opportunity per day.  The study, “The frequency of parent-supervised outdoor play of U.S. preschool age children,” was published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.

Preschool age children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day,” said Dr. Tandon. “But many preschoolers are not meeting that recommendation. Young children need more opportunities to play outdoors and to help them be more active.”

Preschool age children as defined by the study are those a year away from kindergarten entry, usually four or five years old.  Parents or guardians have the greatest influence on children’s behavior because kids spend the majority of time in their care. This is true even for children in child care, as preschoolers in the U.S. spend an average of 32 hours per week in child care.

Contrary to popular belief, researchers did not find evidence that excessive screen time on computers or watching television was related to less outdoor time.

Moms take kids outside more often 

Girls are less likely to play outside compared with boys, according to the study. And mothers took their children outside to play more often than fathers.  Forty-four percent of moms said they took their kids outside daily, compared to 24 percent of dads.  Fifteen percent of mothers and 30 percent of fathers did not take their child outside to walk or play even a few times per week.

Physical activity through play is essential for preschoolers’ growth and development,” said Dr. Tandon, who is also acting assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington.  “Outdoor play is also beneficial for motor development, vision, cognition, Vitamin D levels and mental health,” she added.

Racial, ethnic disparities exist 

The study also found that children with non-white parents are less likely to go outside with them for play.  Asian mothers were 49 percent less likely, black mothers 41 percent less likely and Hispanic mothers 20 percent less likely to take their child outside, compared with white mothers. 

Racial and ethnic disparities in rates of children who are overweight or obese start early on in life,” said Dr. Tandon.  “Children in a low socioeconomic status may have fewer opportunities to be active and play outside.”

Playmates, parents who exercise 

Preschoolers with three or more regular playmates were twice as likely to go outside daily.  Mothers who exercised more than four times per week were 50 percent more likely to take their child outside daily than mothers who did not report any exercise. 

The study findings highlight considerable room for improvement in parent-supervised outdoor play opportunities for preschool age children.  “Even if parents are not able to take their children outside to play due to logistics or time constraints, they can advocate for or insist upon it in child care or preschool settings,” said Dr. Tandon.  “If we can increase awareness of why it’s so important for children to be outdoors, there can be a cultural shift and our children will benefit in many ways.”

Dr. Tandon Offers Tips for Parents to Increase Outdoor Physical Activity for Kids 

  • If your child is in day care or cared for by others, ask about outdoor play time
  • Increase awareness among friends of why it’s important for children to play outdoors
  • Encourage and support girls in outdoor active play
  • Don’t let darkness or weather deter you from getting outside with your kids: Take a “flashlight walk” or a rainy day hike; invite your friends

Dr. Tandon shares these tips, and more, in a video: 

Researchers analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Birth Cohort, using a sample size of 8,950 representing approximately four million U.S. children.  The research was supported by the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development Mentored Scholars Program at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. 

Dr. Tandon’s co-authors were:  Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, University of Washington; and Chuan Zhou, PhD, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, University of Washington.

Supporting Materials: 

See, Preschoolers miss out on outdoor play

Children need to explore their environment.

John Tierney has an interesting New York Times article, Findings: Can A Playground Be Too Safe?

When seesaws and tall slides and other perils were disappearing from New York’s playgrounds, Henry Stern drew a line in the sandbox. As the city’s parks commissioner in the 1990s, he issued an edict concerning the 10-foot-high jungle gym near his childhood home in northern Manhattan.

I grew up on the monkey bars in Fort Tryon Park, and I never forgot how good it felt to get to the top of them,” Mr. Stern said. “I didn’t want to see that playground bowdlerized. I said that as long as I was parks commissioner, those monkey bars were going to stay.”

His philosophy seemed reactionary at the time, but today it’s shared by some researchers who question the value of safety-first playgrounds. Even if children do suffer fewer physical injuries — and the evidence for that is debatable — the critics say that these playgrounds may stunt emotional development, leaving children with anxieties and fears that are ultimately worse than a broken bone.

Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.”

Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.
Mark Twain


Children need time to play and just be children                 

The state of preschool education is dire                                            

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

An explosion of ‘baby mamas’

12 Apr

The blog is written around a set of principles:

All children have a right to a good basic education.

  1. Education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), the teacher(s), and the school. All parts of the partnership must be active and involved.
  2. Society should support and foster strong families.
  3. Society should promote the idea that parents are responsible for parenting their children and people who are not prepared to accept that responsibility should not be parenting children.
  4. The sexualization of the culture has had devastating effects on children, particularly young women. For many there has been the lure of the “booty call” rather than focusing on genuine achievement.
  5. Education is a life long pursuit.

Increasingly, schools are being forced to deal with the social problems brought to school resulting from dysfunctional families, violence, and substance abuse. Any person who thinks they will decrease the number of abortions by defunding Planned Parenthood is a knuckle dragging idiot. Of course, those families and parents who support abstinence have a perfect right to espouse that value to their children. BUT, values training and sex education should begin at home early, when each child is ready to absorb that information. Parents should pass along their values to their children because the culture is out there promoting the values of “Sex in the City,” Paris Hilton, and Lindsey Lohan.

Sharon Jayson writes in the USA Today article, More children born to unmarried parents:

A growing number of firstborns in the USA have unmarried parents, reflecting dramatic increases since 2002 in births to cohabiting women, according to government figures out today.

The percentage of first births to women living with a male partner jumped from 12% in 2002 to 22% in 2006-10 — an 83% increase. The percentage of cohabiting new fathers rose from 18% to 25%. The analysis, by the National Center for Health Statistics, is based on data collected from 2006 to 2010….

The percentage of first births to cohabiting women tripled from 9% in 1985 to 27% for births from 2003 to 2010.

Karen Benjamin Guzzo, a sociologist at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, who studies cohabitation and fertility, says she thinks the big jump since 2002 is likely because of the recession, which was at its height from late 2007 to 2009, right in the middle of the federal data collection.

“I think it’s economic shock,” she says. “Marriage is an achievement that you enter into when you’re ready. But in the meantime, life happens. You form relationships. You have sex. You get pregnant. In a perfect world, they would prefer to be married, but where the economy is now, they’re not going to be able to get married, and they don’t want to wait to have kids.”

Also, middle class parents may think more about how much kids cost, but “having kids is much more than about money. It’s about love,” Guzzo says. “You can be a good parent if you don’t have a lot of money. You can be with someone who can be a good parent.”

Sociologist Kelly Musick of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., who studies cohabiting couples with children, says she’s noticed women with more education starting to have children outside of marriage. She says cohabiting used to be more common among women who didn’t graduate from high school but it’s becoming more common for those with a high school degree or some college….

The government report also found racial and ethnic differences.

About 80% of first children born to black women were outside of marriage; 18% of these women were cohabiting. Among Hispanics, 53% of first children were born outside of marriage, and 30% of the women were cohabiting. Among white women, 34% of first children were born outside of marriage, 20% to cohabiters. Among Asians, 13% of first children were born outside of marriage; 7% of women were cohabiting.

The new data also found no significant changes since 2002 in some other areas:

Average age at first birth (23 for women and 25 for men).

Percentage that had a biological child (56% of women and 45% of men).

Average number of children (1.3 births for women and 0.9 for men).

This rise in first births to cohabiting women parallels increases in first births to unmarried women overall. Of first births from 2006-10, 46% were to unmarried mothers, compared with 38% in 2002.

This is a demographic disaster for children as devastating as the hurricane “Katrina.”

In the American Progress report, Sisters Are Doin’ For Themselves, But Could Use Some Help Moses, Boggess, and Groblewski report:

In our paper, we argue that supporting responsible fatherhood and related pro­grams and services helps low-income mothers (single, married, or cohabitating alike) with the following:

Economic stability. Fathers with more access to effective employment assistance have an increased ability to help mothers with the costs of child rearing. Those fathers involved in the lives of their children are more likely to directly con­tribute to household income, pay child support, and provide noncash support, minimizing financial burdens on families.

Child care. Low-income mothers struggle to ensure safe and stable child care arrangements for their children. Fathers can help in providing care.

Work-life balance. As mothers struggle to balance the demands of work and fam­ily, the contributions of fathers can determine the degree to which family obliga­tions result in some available “me time” for mothers to rest and also to get ahead.

Domestic violence. Programs can help identify and serve mothers and fathers involved in violent situations.

Reproductive health. It is unfair for all the responsibilities associated with family planning and preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases to fall on the shoulders of women. Fatherhood programs can work with men on doing their part

Providing more relationship and family choices. Poverty often limits women’s and men’s choices about forming and maintaining relationships and families. Properly designed government family support programs can provide women with more choices regarding the future of their families.

Positive childhood outcomes. Research suggests that fathers can have a positive impact on the academic achievement and behavior of children. Mothers who want to do what they can to ensure positive outcomes for their children may be supportive of fatherhood programs, even participating in some of the services.

Many important federal policies that authorize and fund fatherhood programs are now under debate. President Obama is actively engaged in advancing his propos­als around fatherhood and marriage policy, and Congress is pursuing its efforts to reauthorize the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, anti-poverty legislation that also includes the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Child Support Enforcement programs.

We support the reauthorization of these programs and their continued fund­ing, but we also argue in this report that sufficient emphasis must be placed on responsible fatherhood programs that benefit entire families, including mothers. The great potential of many of these services suggests Congress should expand available funding while making important reforms.

Women have to be reminded over and over again to use contraception especially if they are involved in a relationship where their partner is not likely to be a committed and involved father to children resulting from that relationship. Maybe the peeps know of someone, but moi never knew a rocky relationship which got better because the woman got pregnant. Girlfriend, you need to make the trip to Planned Parenthood

As for the report by Moses, Boggess, and Growbleski?  Amen, sisters.  

Moi does not support abortion, but in order to decrease the number of abortions there must be access to birth control and information about reproduction. That is a key part of the equation. Those who seek to make political points by defunding Planned Parenthood are simply increasing the misery index for children in this society. Women also have to be responsible for their reproductive choices. If you are in a sketchy relationship or have a substance abuse problem, you must use birth control. Sisters not doing it to themselves is the other key part of the equation.

Sisters are not doing it for themselves, but they are doing it to themselves and their children.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

The state of preschool education is dire

10 Apr

In Early learning standards and the K-12 contiuum moi said:

Preschool is a portal to the continuum of life long learning. A good preschool stimulates the learning process and prompts the child into asking questions about their world and environment. Baby Center offers advice about how to find a good preschool and general advice to expectant parents. At the core of why education is important is the goal of equipping every child with the knowledge and skills to pursue THEIR dream, whatever that dream is. Christine Armario and Dorie Turner are reporting in the AP article, AP News Break: Nearly 1 in 4 Fails Military Exam which appeared in the Seattle Times:

Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can’t answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.

Many children begin their first day of school behind their more advantaged peers. Early childhood learning is an important tool is bridging the education deficit.

The National Institute for Early Childhood Research has released its 2011 report, Pre-K Spending Per Child Drops to Levels of Nearly a Decade Ago:

Low Quality of Many State Preschool Programs Threatens Nation’s Progress

Washington, D.C. — Funding for state pre-K programs has plummeted by more than $700 per child nationwide over the past decade — keeping the quality of many states’ preschools low even as enrollment has grown, a new report from the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) shows.

Parents would be outraged if we had such low expectations for the first grade or kindergarten,” said Steve Barnett, the longtime director of NIEER, a nonpartisan center at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. “As economic conditions improve, states need to provide more adequate funding, step up quality, and make pre-K available to all children.”

The State of Preschool 2011 Yearbook ranks states on funding of pre-K programs and their availability to children. The report finds that most states fail to adequately fund their programs, and only five meet NIEER’s 10 benchmarks for preschool quality standards. Only seven states require pre-K teachers to have the same level of preparation and pay as kindergarten teachers, the report explains. 

High-quality early learning is arguably the greatest investments we can make, which is why our Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge supports states committed to providing this important opportunity to more children,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Raising the quality of early learning and expanding access to effective programs plays a pivotal role in improving our children’s chances at being successful in grade school through to college and careers. It’s the kind of investment that benefits us all.”

The Yearbook findings, which include NIEER’s data over the past 10 years and recommendations for policymakers, were released at 10 a.m. today at Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

Though enrollment in state pre-K programs has soared over the past 10 years, just 28 percent of all 4-year-olds and only 4 percent of all 3-year-olds are enrolled. Many states expanded enrollment without maintaining quality, Barnett said.

Pre-K funding has dropped by $715 per student, when adjusted for inflation, between the 2001-2002 and 2010-2011 school years. Per-student funding dropped by $145 in 2010-2011 alone compared with the previous year.

Overall funding for state pre-K programs, when adjusted for inflation, dipped for the second straight year, by $60 million nationally in 2010-2011.

The falling levels of funding for preschool are having a major impact on program quality. Only five states met all 10 NIEER benchmarks for state quality standards in 2010-2011, the new report shows. Fifteen states met eight or more quality standards. These standards include important basics such as having well-trained teachers and monitoring quality.

Some states are making progress, while others have taken steps back. Maine, Kentucky, and Nebraska all raised per-child and total pre-K funding by more than 5 percent over the previous year. In addition, five states — Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, West Virginia, and Wisconsin — increased total funding by more than 5 percent from the previous year.

Twenty-two states increased pre-K enrollment, ranging from small gains in California, Connecticut, Georgia, and Minnesota to 24 percent in Vermont.

But Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Pennsylvania cut total state pre-K spending by 10 percent or more from the previous year.

Nine states cut pre-K enrollment, from 1 percent in Kentucky, Nebraska, and North Carolina, to 12 percent in New Mexico. Arizona entirely eliminated its program. Counting Arizona, 11 states do not offer pre-K: Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

In 2010-11, two states gained benchmarks on NIEER’s quality standards, New York and Georgia. Four states — California, Kansas, New York, and South Carolina — lost benchmarks, all for reducing program monitoring.

In addition, several battleground states face additional threats to pre-K programs in 2012:

  • California cut spending per child by 10 percent for 2010-2011. The state’s program, which achieves only three of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks for quality, is under threat of further budget reductions.
  • Florida ranks first in the nation in pre-K access, with 76 percent of all 4-year-olds attending. But it ranks near the bottom in program quality and spending per child. It has repeatedly cut funding and has not raised per-child spending to adequate levels. Class sizes have been raised, and more funding cuts may be ahead.
  • Georgia, the first state to adopt a goal of state pre-K for all children, and which met all 10 NIEER quality standards in 2010-2011, subsequently cut its pre-K school calendar from 10 months to nine, reduced teacher salaries, and increased maximum class sizes to 22 children. Experienced teachers fled the program. Bringing quality back will require a new revenue source because lottery proceeds are no longer sufficient.
  • Illinois launched its Preschool for All program in 2006 with the goal of achieving universal access by 2012. Instead, it has cut total enrollment and has seen no appreciable funding increase.
  • Massachusetts has cut per-child funding by about 45 percent from 2001-2002 levels and operates two new programs using federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that will go away. Without new funding, these programs are threatened.
  • North Carolina moved its well-regarded More at Four program from the Department of Public Instruction to Health and Human Services to align it with child care, renamed it, and reduced staff and enrollment. The program faces additional possible cuts.
  • Texas, which ranks in the bottom half of states for spending per child, reduced spending per child in 2010-2011 and faces the prospect of further cuts.

Barnett praised the federal $500 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge that is providing grants to nine states for improving quality, but said more needs to be done. President Obama has called on Congress to increase the federal commitment to states for early childhood education.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (, a unit of the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, supports early childhood education policy by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research.

Go to 2011 Yearbook Homepage

View Full Report PDF
Full Report (PDF)

View Executive Summary
Executive Summary (PDF)

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

State DataState





See, Study Points to Drop in Per-Pupil Spending for Pre-K

Moi is using “preschool” to mean the same thing as “nursery school,” the schooling for children around three and four years of age. Professionals sometimes use the term “early childhood education” to mean the same thing.

There is an important distinction, however, between preschool and child care. Child care refers to the day-to-day, routine care of children from birth to three years, and to those parts of an older child’s day in which the primary focus is not on education. Preschool, on the other hand, refers to the portion of the day in which the main goal is developmentally appropriate education. (This isn’t to say that there isn’t some overlap, of course. A lot of what goes on in a preschool classroom involves taking care of a child’s physical and emotional needs, and a lot of what goes on in a good child-care setting is, in fact, educational.)

Kayla Webley has written an excellent report in Time magazine about Pew Charitable Trusts’ findings on a studies of preschool. In Rethinking Pre-K:5 Ways to Fix Preschool

Our goals should be: A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood. ©

Think small, Not small minded ©

Money spent on early childhood programs is akin to yeast for bread. The whole society will rise.


Why Preschool Matters?

Why Preschool is Important?

The Benefits of Preschool

Will Preschool Education Make a Child Ready for Kindergarten

Preschool, Why it is the Most Important Grade

National Conference of State Legislatures Resources on Kindergarten

Education Commission of the States, Full Day Kindergarten: A Study of State Policies in the United States

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

One-size-does-not-fit-all: Nativity Miguel Schools

9 Apr

In  Who says Black children can’t learn? Some schools get it, moi said:

People want an education for a variety of reasons. Some have a love of learning. Others want to attend a good college or vocational school. Still others, see an education as a ticket to a good job. Increasingly for schools, the goal is to prepare kids with the skills to attend and succeed at college. In order to give children the skills to succeed, schools need teachers who are effective at educating their population of kids. There are many themes in the attempt to answer the question, what will prepare kids for what comes after high school. What will prepare kids for what comes after high school is a good basic education. The schools that provide a good basic education are relentless about the basics.

Brian K reported in the Central District News which covers the ethnic district in Seattle about a feasibility study for a Nativity School. In the article, Exploration of a New Nativity Middle School Here in the Central District of Seattle, Brian reports:

A Feasibility Study is currently underway to explore the opening of The Seattle Nativity School, ( a tuition-free, faith-based Catholic middle school here in Seattle’s Central District.  The school will operate under the Nativity Miguel model, as part of a network of over 60 existing schools in over 20 states across the US & Canada.  

The first Nativity School was founded on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1971 in response to an observation by local Jesuit priests that young Latino boys were struggling to keep up with their peers academically. So the Jesuits established the Nativity Mission Center, which kept local kids in school for extended hours, and away from dangerous influences in the neighborhood.  They provided a rigorous and holistic curriculum, wrapped in an environment of support. Those at the school became the student’s ‘family.’

Since then, Nativity middle schools have spread across the United States, serving grades 5th through 8th at 60 schools in over 20 states.  These schools offer a non-tuition-based, extended day, extended year education that is augmented by a graduate support system.  The average student enters a Nativity school often achieving one or two years below grade level in standardized tests.  By graduation day, he or she is prepared to succeed in the elite local public and private high schools, with the ultimate goal of attending university.  The approach has been successful in graduating students from high school and college at rates 20-30% higher than their peer groups in public schools.  

In Seattle, we have diverse communities in need who are challenged to find the type of holistic support – spiritual, educational and emotional – that is required for them to break the cycle of poverty.

There is no “magic bullet” or “Holy Grail” in education. There is only what works to produce academic achievement in a given population of students.

Here is some information about Nativity Miguel schools:

1. What makes a school a Nativity Miguel School?

All Nativity Miguel Network Schools adhere to the Nine Mission Effectiveness Standards.  These include:

1.  Faith Based
A Nativity Miguel School is explicitly faith-based in its mission.

2.  Serves the Economically Poor and Marginalized
A Nativity Miguel School offers a financially accessible, not tuition-based education to students from low-income families in impoverished communities and reflects the faith, cultural, and racial demographics of the local community….
6.  Commitment Beyond Graduation
It is the expectation that any and all students in a Nativity Miguel School will graduate from high school and go on to some form of post-secondary education.  A Nativity Miguel School offers a Graduate Support Program that eases a graduate’s transition into high school; tutors, advocates for, and maintains a connection with all graduates during high school; supports the high school in preparing the student for graduation and post-secondary education; and tracks the growth and achievements of all graduates.

2. What are the benefits of being a member of the Nativity Miguel Network of Schools?

The Nativity Miguel Network empowers middle schools to provide a unique, faith-based education that breaks the cycle of poverty in underserved communities across America. In turn, our schools empower thousands of students at a critical developmental crossroads to realize their potential, forge brighter futures and enjoy the lifelong benefits of a holistic education.

The Network provides many valuable services to member schools.  Professional development opportunities are available through 4 conferences and training sessions offered annually to school presidents and development directors, principals, teachers and graduate support directors.  Further, the Network works to ensure adherence to the Mission Effectiveness Standards and sharing of best practices through the Mission Assessment Program, the primary component of which is the collegial visit process.  

The Network’s resources and expertise help each member school to excel in every aspect of our common mission: to break the cycle of poverty through education.  Network staff personally collaborates with school leadership teams to achieve the best outcomes for students.  Network staff also secures national funding for projects that benefit member schools, including mission assessments, professional development and data collection and analysis.

3. What does the NativityMiguel Network of Schools do?  

The Nativity Miguel Network leads member schools to excellence in education for underserved communities.  Adhering to nine mission effectiveness standards, our schools deliver a uniquely effective, faith-based education to the middle school students in their care.
The Network strengthens member schools. •    Our resources and expertise help each member school to excel in every aspect of our common mission.
•    Network staff personally collaborate with school leadership teams to achieve the best outcomes for students.
•    We secure national funding for projects that benefit member schools, including mission assessments, professional development and data collection and analysis.

Network schools change lives.
•    Many students come to us below grade level in academic and social skills—but graduate at or above grade level.

We keep students engaged, on-course and out of trouble.

•    Our average school day lasts 9.6 hours—three more than most public schools—and our schools enjoy daily attendance rates of 97%.
•    Along with an extended day, we have an extended year—Member schools offer summer learning opportunities.
•    Through our unique Graduate Support Program, students have access to valuable mentoring through high school and the college admissions process.

Our model can only thrive with donor support. 

•    Nativity Miguel schools serve only low-income families; 89% of our students qualify for free and reduced meals.
•    Tuitions support only about 5% of a school’s operating budget. Donors account for the rest.
•    Donations to the Network are investments that increase resources for member schools and generate better outcomes for students.

4. Why do NativityMiguel Schools have an extended day and school year?  

The Nativity Miguel Network realizes that our schools serve low-income, inner city students who may not have access to adequate resources in their communities.  By offering an extended day and extended year program, our schools ensure that students have a safe, engaging, and resourceful environment in which to grow and mature.

•    Few students come to Nativity Miguel schools contemplating college but our students graduate knowing they will succeed.

•    Investing in our students brings them hope instead of harm, promise beyond poverty and confidence instead of confusion.

•    What our students lack economically, they make up for in spirit, character and motivation.

5. In what ways does the GSP support high school and college students?

 Our Unique Graduate Support Program offers many resources and experiences for our students in order to ensure success after graduation.  Every NativityMiguel student and alumni has exclusive access to a GSP director for mentoring purposes to ensure academic and professional success.  At each step along the way mentors help demystify application processes and guarantee smooth transitions between schools.  Together the GSP staff and students have the oppurtunity to go on guided college tours, attend regional college fairs, and to attend a week-long retreat to share challenges and success stories.  6. What is the history of the Nativity Miguel Network of Schools? Schools within the Nativity Miguel Network of Schools are patterned after the Nativity Mission Center which opened its doors in 1971 to middle school aged boys growing up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The school was started to provide the boys – many of whom were new to the country – with an educational program that would help them excel academically, socially and spiritually.Because many of the boys were testing two and three grades below their grade level, the teachers at Nativity Mission developed a new approach. The school day was lengthened, almost doubling the amount of time the boys would be in school were they in the local public school. A commitment to maintain a low student to teacher ratio ensured time for one-on-one instruction. The summer camp the center had been conducting became incorporated into the school curriculum, and, most importantly, Nativity made a commitment to follow their young alumni through high school and even on to college.

The effectiveness of the Nativity Miguel model has inspired educators across the country dedicated to reaching our underserved youth to open schools. By the late 1980s, schools patterned after the Nativity Mission Center began opening. In 1993, the Christian Brothers opened the first Miguel School in Providence, Rhode Island. These Miguel schools shared many of the same attributes and approaches of the Nativity school.  The NativityMiguel Network was born of a merger between the two networks that grew out of the replication of this school model nationally, and schools are now classified only as Nativity Miguel schools.

7. Do Nativity Miguel network schools serve only Catholic students?

No.  In fact, many of of our students are not Catholic. Neither are all of our schools, even though each offers a faith-based education.  Here is the national breakdown of 4500 of our students:

Roman Catholic 42.2%
Non-Catholic Christian 41.9%
Other 12.4%
Non-religious 02.3%
Muslim 00.6%
Buddhist 00.5%
Jewish <0.1%
Hindu <0.1% 

8. How can a school become a member of the Nativit Miguel Network of Schools?

Schools interested in seeking membership into the Nativity Miguel Network of Schools should visit our Starting a Network School page.  For further information contact Melodie Hessling, the Director of Mission Effectiveness, at 202 832-3667.

There are certain elements that successful schools share. The Wisconsin Department of Education has a good guide about successful schools. Chapter One, Characteristics of Successful Schools, lists key elements:



A vision represents clearly articulated statements of goals, principles, and expectations for the entire learning community. A common unifying vision is achieved when the administration, teachers, support staff, students, families, and demographically representative community members are able to clearly communicate that vision through the daily operation of the school district. A vision becomes a guiding force when all educational decisions are based on its framework and goals.


A clear vision is like a good road map. Without a good map it is difficult to determine where you are going and, impossible to know when you arrive. A dynamic vision engages and represents the whole community and outlines a path to follow. The vision allows school leaders to create a compelling view that excites and engages other constituents to join in the educational journey.

Key Ideas

  1. Effective schools have a clearly defined vision for the improvement of learning for each and every student.

  2. Emphasis is on the achievement of a broadly defined set of standards that includes academic knowledge, skill, development, and standards of the heart.

  3. Goals are framed in a way that can be benchmarked through the school year and measured at year’s end. Progress is recorded and used for improvement efforts.

  4. Communication about the goals as well as progress toward them is a regular part of school activities among all constituents.

Successful Schools Have a Vision That:

  1. is accompanied by other strategic planning. Strategic planning is a data-driven process that guides decision making, as well as program implementation components such as:

    • goal statements

    • means to accomplish the goals

    • timelines

  2. links education standards to teacher expectations and student performance

  3. fosters district wide expectations and experiences that result in all students mastering challenging standards at proficient or above levels

  4. engages the entire learning community to take responsibility for all students’ learning

  5. includes carefully defined terms that are known and supported by all constituents

  6. is developed with representation from a wide variety of publics and demographic groups

  7. drives resource allocation in the learning as well as the broader community

  8. allows the societal, academic, and organizational components of education to operate in a seamless manner

  9. articulates the learning community’s commitment to both excellence and equity in the organization

  10. embraces the dual mission of creating in each student solid and rigorous academic achievement and civic caring and responsibility

Criticism WILL occur if you are doing something that is not inline with others’ expectations. It IS going to cost to educate children out of the cycle of poverty. Still, that means that society should not make the attempt. There is no magic bullet or “Holy Grail” in education. There is only what works to produce academic achievement in each population of children. That is why school choice is so important.


The ‘whole child’ approach to education

Defining basic education: Good schools and effective schools

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Are college students stuck on stupid?

8 Apr

In Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person moi said:

There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the state of education in America. A lot of that dissatisfaction comes from the belief that the education system fails to actually educate children and to teach them critical thinking skills. The University of Maine at Augusta defines an educated person:

An educated person exhibits knowledge and wisdom; recognizes and respects the diversity of nature and society; demonstrates problem solving skills; engages in planning and managing practices; navigates the on-line world; writes and speaks well; acts with integrity; and appreciates the traditions of art, culture, and ideas. Developing these abilities is a life-long process.

Essential to this definition is the development of critical thinking skills.

Scott Jaschik wrote an interesting review of the University of Chicago Press book ‘Academically Adrift’ for Inside Education.

If the purpose of a college education is for students to learn, academe is failing, according to Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, a book being released today by University of Chicago Press. The book cites data from student surveys and transcript analysis to show that many college students have minimal classwork expectations — and then it tracks the academic gains (or stagnation) of 2,300 students of traditional college age enrolled at a range of four-year colleges and universities. The students took the Collegiate Learning Assessment (which is designed to measure gains in critical thinking, analytic reasoning and other “higher level” skills taught at college) at various points before and during their college educations, and the results are not encouraging:

  • 45 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during the first two years of college.
  • 36 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college.
  • Those students who do show improvements tend to show only modest improvements. Students improved on average only 0.18 standard deviations over the first two years of college and 0.47 over four years. What this means is that a student who entered college in the 50th percentile of students in his or her cohort would move up to the 68th percentile four years later — but that’s the 68th percentile of a new group of freshmen who haven’t experienced any college learning.

“How much are students actually learning in contemporary higher education? The answer for many undergraduates, we have concluded, is not much,” write the authors, Richard Arum, professor of sociology and education at New York University, and Josipa Roksa, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. For many undergraduates, they write, “drifting through college without a clear sense of purpose is readily apparent…”

The main culprit for lack of academic progress of students, according to the authors, is a lack of rigor. They review data from student surveys to show, for example, that 32 percent of students each semester do not take any courses with more than 40 pages of reading assigned a week, and that half don’t take a single course in which they must write more than 20 pages over the course of a semester. Further, the authors note that students spend, on average, only about 12-14 hours a week studying, and that much of this time is studying in groups.

The research then goes on to find a direct relationship between rigor and gains in learning:

  • Students who study by themselves for more hours each week gain more knowledge — while those who spend more time studying in peer groups see diminishing gains.
  • Students whose classes reflect high expectations (more than 40 pages of reading a week and more than 20 pages of writing a semester) gained more than other students.
  • Students who spend more time in fraternities and sororities show smaller gains than other students.
  • Students who engage in off-campus or extracurricular activities (including clubs and volunteer opportunities) have no notable gains or losses in learning.
  • Students majoring in liberal arts fields see “significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study.” Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the smallest gains. (The authors note that this could be more a reflection of more-demanding reading and writing assignments, on average, in the liberal arts courses than of the substance of the material.)

In section after section of the book and the research report, the authors focus on pushing students to work harder and worrying less about students’ non-academic experiences… “Students who struggle to pay for college and emerge into a tough job market have a right to know that they have learned something, he said. “You can’t have a democratic society when the elite — the college-educated kids — don’t have these abilities to think critically,” he said.

The book rejects the idea of federal mandates on testing or the curriculum, suggesting that such requirements rarely work. And the book acknowledges that many college educators and students don’t yet see a crisis, given that students can enroll, earn good grades for four years, and graduate — very much enjoying themselves in the process. But in an era when “the world has become unforgiving” to those who don’t work hard or know how to think, Arum said that this may be a time to consider real change.

The culture of college needs to evolve, particularly with regard to “perverse institutional incentives” that reward colleges for enrolling and retaining students rather than for educating them. “It’s a problem when higher education is driven by a student client model and institutions are chasing after bodies,” he said.

The analysis in the book stresses that there is significant variation within institutions, not just among institutions, with students in some academic programs regularly outperforming others at the same campuses. Arum said this suggests that institutions can improve student learning by making sure that there is some consistency across disciplines in the rigor of requirements. “You need an internal culture that values learning,” he said. “You have to have departments agree that they aren’t handing out easy grades.”

Further, he said that colleges need to shift attention away from measures of “social engagement” (everything that’s not academic) and toward academic engagement, even if some of those measures of non-academic engagement help keep students engaged and enrolled. “It’s a question of what outcome you want,” he said. “If the outcome is student retention and student satisfaction, then engagement is a great strategy. If, however, you want to improve learning and enhance the academic substance of what you are up to, it is not necessarily a good strategy…”

See, A Lack Of Rigor Leaves Students ‘Adrift’ In College

and Study: US College Students Advance Little Intellectually—146441905.html

The Critical Thinking Community has several great articles about critical thinking at their site. In the section, Defining Critical Thinking:

A Definition
Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.

The Result

A well cultivated critical thinker:

  • raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and

  • gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to
    interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;

  • thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought,
    recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and

  • communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.  (Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008).

The question is how to teach critical thinking skills.

Diane F. Halpren discusses a model for teaching critical thinking skills to college students in her article, Teaching for Critical Thinking: Helping College Students Develop the Skills and Dispositions of a Critical Thinker:

The How of Critical Thinking Instruction: A Four-Part Model

I recently proposed a four-part model of instruction for critical thinking (Halpern, 1998). Not surprisingly, it includes two parts we have already discussed—instruction in the skills and dispositions for critical thinking—but it also includes structure training as a means of improving the probability that students will recognize when a particular thinking skill is needed, even in a novel context. The problem in learning thinking skills that are needed in multiple contexts is that there are no obvious cues in the novel contexts that can trigger the recall of the thinking skill. With structure training, students are taught to create retrieval cues from the structural aspects of a problem or an argument so that when these structural aspects are present in the novel context, they can serve as cues for retrieval. I borrowed the term from Hummel and Holyoak (1997), who identified structure sensitivity as a fundamental property that underlies human thought: “First thinking is structure sensitive. Reasoning, problem solving, and learning . . .depend on a capacity to code and manipulate relational knowledge” (p. 427). For example, students may be able to explain why correlation is not causation when presented with this question on an exam but still not recognize that this same principle is operating when they read that children who attend religious schools score higher on standardized tests than those who attend public schools. Specific instruction in recognizing the structure of correlational problems can improve the probability that students will recognize these problems, even when the topic is different.

The last component of critical thinking instruction is metacognitive monitoring. Metacognition is usually defined as “what we know about what we know,” so metacognitive monitoring is determining how we can use this knowledge to direct and improve the thinking and learning process. While engaging in critical thinking, students need to monitor their thinking process, checking that progress is being made toward an appropriate goal, ensuring accuracy, and making decisions about the use of time and mental effort. In the jargon of cognitive psychology, metacognitive monitoring serves the executive function of directing the thinking process. It is made overt and conscious during instruction, often by having instructors model their own thinking process, so that the usually private activity of thinking is made visible and open to scrutiny.


Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses

Read an excerpt.

Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa

272 pages | 20 tables, 20 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2010

Cloth $70.00 ISBN: 9780226028552 Published January 2011

Paper $25.00 ISBN: 9780226028569 Published December 2010

E-book $7.00 to $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226028576 Published January 2011

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.


The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Derek Bok


Trying to Find a Measure for How Well Colleges Do

Cultural literacy: Is there necessary core knowledge to be academically successful?

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Are rules which limit choice hampering principal effectiveness?

8 Apr

As more emphasis is placed on holding schools accountable, more scrutiny is directed toward school leadership, particularly school principals. It is generally agreed that strong leadership at the school building level is essential for an effective school, the question is whether shool principals have the authority to accomplish their task? David Miller Sadker, PhD,  Karen R. Zittleman, PhD in Teachers, Schools, and Society list the characteristics of a strong school:

Factor 1: Strong Leadership

Factor 2: A Clear School Mission

Factor 3: A Safe and Orderly Climate

Factor 4: Monitoring Student Progress

A variety of commentators say that strong leadership is key to an effective school.

Gary Hopkins of Education World surveyed 43 principals and reported upon his findings in the article, Principals Identify Top Ten Leadership Traits:

The result of that survey is this list of the top ten traits of school leaders, presented in order of importance.

1. Has a stated vision for the school and a plan to achieve that vision.

2. Clearly states goals and expectations for students, staff, and parents.

3. Is visible — gets out of the office; is seen all over the school.

4. Is trustworthy and straight with students and staff.

5. Helps develop leadership skills in others.

6. Develops strong teachers; cultivates good teaching practice.

7. Shows that he or she is not in charge alone; involves others.

8. Has a sense of humor.

9. Is a role model for students and staff.

10. Offers meaningful kindnesses and kudos to staff and students.

Again, there is an emphasis on leadership.

Charmaine Loever describes What Makes A Principal Effective?

A good principal creates a vision of high standards which is later imparted to all stakeholders. It is one that calls for excellence, is strong, clear, and is articulated in such a way that employees are convinced to “buy in” to it….

 Having a strong character is one of the qualities of an effective principal. Such a leader demonstrates self-control, will power, persistence, confidence, is well organized, and consistent. …

An outstanding principal doesn’t get easily agitated in the face of turmoil, but remains calm and is level headed. Principals who remain calm in unpleasant situations also demonstrate strength of character. They possess sound judgment which causes them to frequently make good decisions. As a result, they earn the trust and the respect of the people around them….

The effective principal shows empathy.
These school understand what it is like to be in the classroom and therefore are not quick to
pass judgment. They support their teachers and defend them in any way possible. Teachers enjoy working with, and appreciate principals who can identify with their situation….

An exceptional principal celebrates the achievements of all staff members and shuns discrimination.
These principals know that celebrating the accomplishments of all employees will motivate them to do their best.It is unfortunate that some practice favoritism, as this is one of the negative components that they need to strive to eradicate from the school environment. …

An effective principal includes all stakeholders in the decision making process. These administrators are cognizant of the fact that it takes teamwork to build an effective school….

Being a good role model is one of the essential characteristics of an exceptional school administrator. Principals need to conduct themselves in ways that teachers, students, parents, and other community members would want to emulate….

Chester E. Finn Jr. agrees that strong leadership is essential for effective schools, but he questions whether principals have the freedom to lead. Finn, is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank. He is also senior editor of Education Next.

Finn writes in the Atlantic article, Why School Principals Need More Authority:

A venerable maxim of successful organizational management declares that an executive’s authority should be commensurate with his or her responsibility. In plain English, if you are held to account for producing certain results, you need to be in charge of the essential means of production.

In American public education today, however, that equation is sorely unbalanced. A school principal in 2012 is accountable for student achievement, for discipline, for curriculum and instruction, and for leading (and supervising) the staff team, not to mention attracting students, satisfying parents, and collaborating with innumerable other agencies and organizations.

Yet that same principal controls only a tiny part of his school’s budget, has scant say over who teaches there, practically no authority when it comes to calendar or schedule, and minimal leverage over the curriculum itself. Instead of deploying all available school assets in ways that would do the most good for the most kids, the principal is required to follow dozens or hundreds of rules, program requirements, spending procedures, discipline codes, contract clauses, and regulations emanating from at least three levels of government–none of which strives to coordinate with any of the others.

In short, we give our school heads the responsibility of CEO’s but the authority of middle-level bureaucrats…

To top it off, today’s school principals get paid barely more than the senior teachers in their schools, though they typically work year-round versus the classic 180-day, 9-month teacher contract.

No wonder principals are retiring in droves. No wonder many of our ablest young educators –such as those emerging from the Teach for America program — shun the principal’s office, at least in district-operated schools. (Many gravitate to the charter-school sector, where principals have far greater authority.) No wonder entrepreneurs, risk-takers, and change agents seldom last long as principals, or that many of those who do endure are people content in middle-manager roles….

The underlying causes are threefold.

First, a dysfunctional and archaic governance structure for public education that pays homage to “local control” yet turns into bureaucratic management of dozens or hundreds of schools from burgeoning “central offices,” rather than vesting any real control at the level closest to teachers, students, and parents. Setting policy for that system, typically, is an elected school board that itself has grown dysfunctional, particularly in urban America, as adult interest groups manipulate who serves on it. Atop all this sit state and federal agencies — multiple agencies at each level — as well as (in many states) county or regional administrative units.

Second, we’ve layered so many responsibilities on our schools that the teaching and learning of basic skills and essential knowledge has all but vanished under efforts to rectify injustice, foster diversity, provide multiple services to kids with varying needs, prevent drug abuse, adolescent pregnancy and obesity, forge character, keep children off the streets, ensure physical fitness, and observe a near-infinity of special events, holidays, and interest-group enthusiasm.

Third, every time something goes wrong anywhere, a blizzard of new rules and procedures descends upon the school’s obligations, lest that mishap recur anywhere else. Whether it’s bullying or a playground accident, an unwanted intruder or a disgruntled parent, a kid who doesn’t get into a particular course or a library book that offends someone, the checklists, regulations, and prohibitions multiply.

Finn does not have one solution as to how the rules which inhibit principals accomplishing the task of leading their schools and making them more effective can be loosened. It will be a state by state struggle and not to mention some of the mandates at the federal level. Still, people must have the tools to effectively do their jobs.

Strong leadership is essential for struggling schools. Strong leadership requires not only accountability, but authority.


New research: School principal effectiveness

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©