Sunday, September 14, 2014

REPOST: Missouri S&T begins STEM-focused elementary ed program this fall

Mary Helen Stoltz reports that students who want to pursue teaching can register to the Missouri University of Science and Technology’s elementary education program that highlights science, technology, engineering and mathematics which will begin this fall. Read this article for more details.

Students interested in teaching 1st through 6th grades can register for a new program beginning this fall at Missouri University of Science and Technology. The new elementary education program will prepare students for teaching careers that emphasize science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  
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Dr. Mandy Welch has joined the Missouri S&T faculty to help facilitate the new program. A native of Salem, Missouri, Welch was most recently the principal of Smithville Upper Elementary in Smithville, Missouri.
“Mandy brings a wealth of knowledge with her,” says Dr. Jana Neiss, director of Missouri S&T’s Teacher Education Program. “Her district has a history of impressive test scores and her experience with the implementation of Singapore math will significantly enrich our program.” The teaching method is based on Singapore’s national math curriculum.
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The new elementary education component of Missouri S&T’s Teacher Education Program will include extensive field and clinical experience in collaboration with Rolla Public Schools.
“Our students will also bring Project Lead The Way to the elementary level,” says Neiss. PLTW is a program that provides science and engineering education in elementary, middle and high schools throughout the nation.
The fully accredited elementary education program is endorsed by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Missouri S&T also offers a teacher certification program for teachers of grades 9 through 12.
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Hi! I’m Jamie Squillare, and I love to inspire kids to love learning. Subscribe to my blog to read more stories on educating young minds.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

REPOST: 4 Tricks to Get Your Kids to Love Reading

Nowadays, most kids prefer playing with their iPads or video games to perusing a good novel. Blogger Ashley McCann shares some helpful tips that moms and teachers can use to encourage kids to read more.

When my oldest son was born, I spent the first two weeks of his life reading Steinbeck’s East of Eden out loud to him; not through any attempt to create a baby genius but because I wasn’t sure what else to do. It seemed weird to sit around quietly in the presence of another person, but he wasn’t much of a conversationalist.

He did end up being an avid reader and I like to take credit for providing such an early start, but, really, I had little to do with it. Around the age of two, he started memorizing words. People would call it “reading,” and I would assure them that he just had a great memory and was recognizing the words, but within a year he was recognizing so many words that it was most certainly reading. So, I pretty much considered myself an expert on this whole reading thing, since my kid was really good at it.

Then the second kid was born; the one who taught me that I was not an expert on anything, at all. It turns out that actually teaching people to read is super hard! The “real” parenting experts (who I suspect are people without kids) say that you have to read out loud to your children every night and encourage them to read out loud to you. The experts must have super easy (imaginary) kids, because there are some nights where I risk physical injury in my rush to get from the kids’ room to the bottle of wine in the fridge, and it is not in anyone’s best interest to delay me on those occasions. Also, I don’t know how many beginning readers these experts have heard read out loud, but it’s a process that requires a lot of patience. I’m not saying that little kids stink at reading, but if you said that, I would nod heartily in agreement.

So, I was pretty sure the second kid was never going to learn to read and I set off in search of ways to trick my kids into reading that required less parental involvement, just to cover my bases on those days I couldn’t sit through another dry reading of, “Hank’s Tortilla Factory.” Sorry, Hank.

1. Flashlight Sight Words

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Perfect for practicing spelling lists and sight words, all you need is a pack of sticky notes, a marker and a flashlight for this “Do-It-Yourself Kid!” activity. Print words on sticky notes and create a grid of words on the wall. Each night before bed, hand your child a flashlight and encourage them to shine the light on the words they know and shout out the answer. Kids love flashlights and the repetition will help them recognize the words eventually.

This method could also be useful for memorizing alphabet letters, colors, or phonics. It’s a quick way to get some sneaky studying in! Extra bonus points if you have the child print the words onto the pieces of paper for extra practice (and less work for you).

2. Make a Book Nook

A secret reading lair serves two purposes: it provides a relaxing place to focus on reading and gives everyone (including mom) a little additional space. Especially effective for kids that share a room, an extra closet or corner can be transformed into a semi-private place for inspiration and contemplation. If you can spare a storage closet, look for an item that can serve as a bench. Get creative with storage cubes or an old coffee table or trunk. If you use a closet, stop referring to it as a closet and remove the door to avoid any awkward conversations with your child’s teacher about how you make them read in the closet. You know that’s how they’ll spin it. Add some artwork, lighting and cushions and you’ve got a mini reading room!

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If you don’t have the space to spare, get creative by making a canopy from a hula-hoop and curtains. Saw through the hula hoop and thread the curtain tabs through before taping the hoop back together, attaching ribbons to the top, and hanging it from a hook on the ceiling to create a canopy for a cozy corner.

The most important part of a book nook is obviously the books. Try to provide a wide and varied collection (Geronimo Stilton is a huge hit around our house, along with Harry Potter, The Sisters Grimm, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid). It’s great to start with a series, because the familiarity of a character or story line can keep budding readers interested. Also, there is less guess work from you about what they might like when you’re shopping for books!

3. Make it a Family Affair

Create a summer book club at home by inviting the family to a monthly meeting for some cookies and conversation about what everyone is currently reading. From experience, I can tell you that meetings are more eagerly attended when held at an ice cream parlor or coffee shop. Keep it casual and fun, giving everyone a few minutes to present the story they are reading and then ask each other questions about the plot, characters or how the book makes the reader feel. It is also an interesting way to hear your family’s thoughts and opinions on scenarios that don’t normally come up in dinner table conversation.

4. Negotiate

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I’m not above bribery, and don’t think any good parent should be. I noticed during the school year that my kids were resistant to the idea of reading recreationally since they dealt with so much assigned reading. We implemented a new family policy where everyone could stay up 20 minutes after bedtime as long as they would read in bed during that time. If you didn’t want to read, you could go to bed at the regular time. Reading rates skyrocketed immediately and, miraculously, the new system also managed to cut down on the 254 nightly trips out of the room to ask for a drink. A win/win.

Despite not having great literature murmured into his ear during the first hours of life, or for many (many) nights thereafter, my youngest son reads fluently and enjoys it now that he’s 7 years old. Yes, ideally all children will be reading and being read to every single day, faces alight with a smile of serenity and interest as they eagerly await the fate of Hank and his tortilla factory…but just in case that doesn’t happen, it’s good to have other plans in place. So have no fear, even if you mess up the “expert” way, there are plenty of lifehacks that can make reading easier and more fun for both parent and child.


I’m Jamie Squillare, an elementary school teacher and bookworm who hopes to inspire kids to enjoy reading in their spare time. Follow me on Twitter for more related stories and updates.

Friday, March 28, 2014

REPOST: Gentler Words About Charter Schools From de Blasio

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke in a conciliatory tone to emphasize camaraderie during his remarks delivered at the Riverside Church in New York City. The New York Times has the full account of his plea for solidarity within the education sector.
Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered remarks at Riverside Church on Sunday.
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It was perhaps fitting that Mayor Bill de Blasio found himself Sunday at Riverside Church, the neo-Gothic landmark in Morningside Heights: The church was long a cathedral of antiwar sentiment, and the mayor was looking to make peace. 
For weeks, Mr. de Blasio had been locked in a battle with advocates of charter schools, who were denouncing him around the clock in a $3.6 million advertising blitz. The results were beginning to show: His education agenda seemed rudderless, and his popularity in polls was slipping. 
So on Sunday, Mr. de Blasio struck a conciliatory tone, acknowledging missteps and emphasizing common ground. He quoted a theologian, Paul Tillich, saying, “The noise of these shallow waters prevents us from listening to the sounds out of the depth.” 
Charter schools and their backers represent perhaps the most formidable political threat to Mr. de Blasio’s young administration, and the mayor has taken notice. 
In recent weeks, he has spoken about the need to educate all children, regardless of the type of school they attend. And in private, he has phoned titans of Wall Street and philanthropy, explaining that he does not want to “destroy” charter schools, according to several business executives who spoke with Mr. de Blasio. 
For a mayor who won election by denouncing the excesses of business and speaking passionately of the need to bridge the gap between rich and poor, the conversations have been awkward. But increasingly, Mr. de Blasio seems determined to move beyond what he sees as a perilous distraction and to avoid the wrath of a well-financed charter-school movement. 
“There’s a desire on the part of the business community to work with the mayor,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a coalition of business leaders. “The question that has been raised is whether that’s mutual.” 
Charter school leaders have seized on a key vulnerability. While black and Latino residents overwhelmingly backed Mr. de Blasio in last year’s election, many also embrace the cause of charter schools, which operate primarily in low-income neighborhoods. 
Families for Excellent Schools, a charter school advocacy group, began running advertisements last month attacking Mr. de Blasio for his decision to deny public space to three charter schools run by Success Academy Charter Schools, a high-performing network. In defending his decision, the mayor said he worried about losing space for special education programs, and he expressed concern about having elementary school students attend classes on high school campuses. He also allowed almost every other charter school to continue using public school space, and more recently, has promised to find space at another site for one of the three Success schools, an existing school that wants to add older grades. 
In one ad, the smiling faces of the school’s students zoom across the screen and then begin to disappear. 
“They love their school and all the opportunities it brings,” a narrator says. “But Mayor Bill de Blasio just announced he is closing their school, taking away their hopes and dreams.” 
In another, a parent named Maria offers a direct message to Mr. de Blasio: “You’re not thinking about the people that you’re hurting.” 
The campaign seems to have taken a toll on the mayor’s popularity, and his aides have acknowledged as much. A poll by Quinnipiac University last week showed that 38 percent of voters approved of Mr. de Blasio’s handling of New York City schools, while 49 percent disapproved. The poll last week showed that 45 percent of voters approved of the new mayor, down from 53 percent two months ago. 
Longtime supporters of charter schools, including the Walton Family Foundation and the hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, are helping finance the ad campaign, according to an individual involved in the effort. 
In recent days, Mr. de Blasio has aggressively reached out to Wall Street financiers, including Mr. Tudor Jones, in hopes of easing tensions and ending the ads, which are running dozens of times a day. He also has spoken with Daniel S. Loeb, chairman of the board of Success Academy and Jonathan D. Gray, chairman of the board of Harlem Village Academies, another charter network. 
In those conversations, Mr. de Blasio has sought to tamp down concerns that he holds a grudge against Wall Street or wealthy individuals, according to a banker who spoke with Mr. de Blasio but declined to be identified for fear of harming his relationship with the mayor. 
The reception was mixed. Some of those the mayor called said they walked away from the conversations reassured about Mr. de Blasio’s commitment to charter schools. But some said they were still concerned about his educational vision, including his plan to charge rent to charter schools, and others said their critiques of Mr. de Blasio extended beyond charter schools and included his support for raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for prekindergarten and after-school programs. 
Phil Walzak, the mayor’s press secretary, said the conversations were part of a broader effort by Mr. de Blasio to unite community leaders, philanthropists and educators around his vision for the city. “These outreach efforts underscore the mayor’s commitment to uniting people and working together to ensure every child in New York City receives a great education,” he said in a statement. 
Many charter school leaders, accustomed to favorable treatment under former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, fear that Mr. de Blasio will hinder their growth in New York. Charter schools are publicly financed but privately run, and are typically not unionized. Mr. Bloomberg gave charter schools free space in public school buildings, a policy Mr. de Blasio has criticized as squeezing out traditional schools. Eva S. Moskowitz, a former city councilwoman who runs the Success Academy network, raised several million dollars for advocacy efforts in anticipation of Mr. de Blasio’s tenure, according to a person familiar with her efforts. Mr. de Blasio had singled out Ms. Moskowitz during the campaign, saying, “She has to stop being tolerated, enabled, supported.” 
Kevin Hall, a Success Academy board member and president of the Charter School Growth Fund, said it had become necessary for educators to plan robust political efforts.
“In some ways these guys have gotten pulled into being in the advocacy realm because the world kind of changed around them,” he said. “People are trying to figure out now, how do we mobilize our families and others to better tell our story than we have?” 
The attacks on Mr. de Blasio have created divisions within the charter school community. A small coalition of charter school leaders has distanced itself from the recent advertising campaign in hopes of building better relations with City Hall. The group released a statement on Sunday praising the mayor’s speech. “We share a belief that our city needs a high-quality charter sector that collaborates with district schools,” the group said. 
For all his talk of camaraderie on Sunday, Mr. de Blasio made clear that he would not swerve from his underlying agenda: focusing attention and resources on traditional public schools, by expanding access to prekindergarten and after-school programs. 
“The answer is not to save a few of our children only,” he said. “The answer is not to find an escape route that some can follow and others can’t. The answer is to fix the entire system.”
I’m Jamie Squillare, and as a teacher, I agree that camaraderie between schools, government, and communities is extremely crucial to ensure that every child in the country has access to quality education regardless of his or her social status. Click here to read more news on education andliterature.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

REPOST: No College Left Behind: Randy Best's Money-Making Mission To Save Higher Education

This article for Forbes spotlights Randy Best, an entrepreneur who's on a mission to transform struggling mid-level U.S. universities into global education brands through his tech venture Academic Partnerships.

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Randy Best can’t read. “I’m acutely dyslexic,” says Best from his office in a glitzy Dallas skyscraper where he is plotting his assault on the ivory tower. “My mother read to me all through college. She was a schoolteacher, so she was just humiliated–and made it clear to me that she was devastated. Back then there were two reasons you didn’t learn to read: You were lazy or you weren’t very intelligent.”
Even today, as his latest venture, Academic Partnerships, is using the Web to turn struggling midlevel U.S. universities into global education brands, he still needs someone to read to him. On his desk sits a manila folder marked “Read,” where he stashes articles and e-mails for his right-hand woman, Justyna Dymerska, a Cambridge-educated Ph.D., to recite. In fact, Best, 71, can’t even use a computer. His Web activity is confined to an iPad. When he needs to send e-mails, he dictates while someone else types.
It’s a startling confession for anyone, let alone the founder and CEO of an estimated $100 million (sales) education technology company. But Best’s functional illiteracy masks an even rarer ability: making money–and lots of it. There are the jewelry businesses he founded as an undergrad in the 1960s, the art galleries and cattle yards in the 1970s, and outpatient care, oil exploration and defense contracting in the 1980s. By 1995 Best had made several fortunes and turned, momentarily, to philanthropy.
He founded Voyager Expanded Learning as a free afterschool program for Dallas latchkey kids. Originally a nonprofit, this startup would turn out to be his biggest moneymaker yet. Best eventually pulled in so much government money from the No Child Left Behind Act that Voyager–by then very much for-profit–was criticized by education watchdogs as the “Halliburton of Education.” Best sold Voyager for $360 million in 2005 to library database ProQuest. His 37% stake in the company was worth close to $130 million.
Academic Partnerships, founded as Higher Ed Holdings in 2007, is on track to make that payday look like a freshman introductory course. It’s a simple business model: Academic Partnerships helps colleges move some of their degree programs–usually those with a professional or vocational slant–online. The company spends an average of $2 million per school (it currently has 40 U.S. campuses and 17 international ones) to acquire online students, digitize lessons, set up back-end administrative and technical support, and tutor professors in the ABCs of the virtual classroom.
In return it takes a 50% cut of the tuition, which at some schools can be as costly as a traditional degree. The company says it has so far recruited 82,000 students, with an 85% retention rate. When they graduate, those students are granted transcripts and diplomas that are indistinguishable from ones earned the old-fashioned way.
There are now in excess of 2,000 online degree programs in the U.S. About half of the schools rely on a third-party facilitator like Academic Partners or its competitors to put warm, tuition-paying bodies behind their new virtual desks. Other leaders in the industry include Deltak (owned by Wiley), Embanet(owned by Pearson), Bisk Education and 2U. According to Robert Lytle, cohead of education practice at the Parthenon Group, those facilitators currently bring in an estimated $1 billion a year in tuition revenue. That market is expected to double in four years, says Michael Moe, cofounder of GSV Asset Management.
“They are good at that, and we are not,” says Donald R. Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System, which began working with Best in 2012. Best finds students partly through partnering with some 2,000 big institutions worldwide–hospitals, corporations and municipalities–that want better educated (or credentialed) employees. But it’s also a lot of telemarketing. Of the more than 400 workers employed by Academic Partnerships, 50% work the phones–and the e-mails–in a sprawling call center situated right across the street from Best’s office: The three Rs here being recruitment, retention and revenue.
Philosophy, political science and art history majors need not apply, nor gifted high school seniors shooting for top-tier schools. “The Stanfords, the Harvards, oh my gosh, those schools are remarkable,” says Best. “But they’re irrelevant to the market.” The degrees Academic Partnerships are selling are aimed squarely at the bulging middle mass of the college market–the millions of adult students seeking degrees as a vehicle to better jobs and bigger salaries. Let the 20-somethings pack the coffeehouses, stadiums and frat parties. Best’s clients are all business. They are cops, nurses, teachers and construction workers grinding for the promotion and pay bump that comes with a B.S. in criminal justice or nursing or a master’s in education or construction management but can’t take days or nights off–much less four or five years–from the job and kids to earn a diploma.
“We’d all like to be 19 again, sitting in a dorm, but that’s not the way it is,” says Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and a current Academic Partnerships investor and senior advisor. “We have a whole lot of people who aspire to a better life, are married, have a job, can’t pause and undo what they’ve done in their adult life but want a college career that will help them live a life of purpose and meaning. And without expanding the reach of our public universities, that promise will be unfulfilled.”
It’s great for the colleges, too. Online learning enables them to expand without building new classrooms or laboratories, landscaping playing fields or providing heat, so growing a digital student body has an outsize effect on the bottom line. It costs the average public college $13,000 a year (in 2010 dollars) to educate an undergraduate on campus, according to the American Institutes for Research, a nonpartisan research group. According to Academic Partnerships, it can do the same job online for about $1,500 a year–making digital degrees a profit machine even after accounting for the significantly higher costs of acquiring virtual students (there is much more competition in cyberspace).
In some ways the money couldn’t come soon enough. At elite public universities like UVa or UC Berkeley bright and often wealthy students battle for admission, but there are hundreds of middling state schools on the brink. These schools are being squeezed by decreasing government aid (taxpayers typically foot about 13% of the bill, according to the U.S. Department of Education), falling enrollment and anemic alumni giving.
“Higher education is an industry in danger,” says Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School guru and a senior advisor (unpaid) at Academic Partnerships. “It’s very plausible to say that 15 years from now half of the universities that exist will be bankrupt and in some fundamental way facing extinction and the need to totally change themselves.” Best wants to be that change agent. If his plan works, the same man who can’t find his way through a textbook or use a computer might end up saving the battered U.S. public university system–and mint another fortune in the process.
Best was born and raised in Beaumont, Tex., a fading oil boomtown near the Louisiana border. His father was a hardware store owner (and also dyslexic) and his mother a schoolteacher and principal. He set out to major in prelaw at the local college, Lamar University, but soon realized he’d have to read and write briefs. Best switched to political science and began a lifelong obsession with history, ancient civilizations and the arts.
 Read the full story here.
Hi, I'm Jamie Squillare. I'm a literature teacher who salutes entrepreneurs with a big heart for education. Join me on this blog for another round of discussion on key trends and issues on education.