Archive for the ‘ Education ’ Category

When (and How) Did You Find Out Who Your Kid’s Teacher Is?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Seems that the answers vary wildly, if my informal digging is any indication. Many parents find out via mail, anywhere from 2-4 weeks before school starts. (One Parents mom is even provided with the class list.) Another colleague has a friend in California whose school posts the class list on the front door of the building the night before. Wow. But most surprising is the friend on Long Island who doesn‘t find out. The kids at this private elementary school all gather on the first morning and the teachers come and collect their students. That’s hardcore! Makes you wonder if there’s a correlation between how much time schools leave for parents to ponder the class placements and how much “feedback” some parents have offered over class placements in past years. In any case, it’s a big shift from my childhood in Connecticut, where our final report card of the school year contained the line “Your child will be in __________’s class next year.”

Where I live now, in northern New Jersey, we find out a handful of days before school. In my town this year, we’ll get the news on Friday after 12pm by checking a web portal, provided we’ve submitted all the requested info about our kids; school starts next Thursday. My younger daughter’s principal sent a letter yesterday outlining this, also mentioning that school will be closed on Friday. I took that to mean “So don’t bother calling us if you’re not happy with the class your child’s in.” And I can’t blame her! I can’t imagine how tricky–actually, how impossible–it is to make class placements that make everyone happy. (Just thinking about it takes me back to the many fully unpleasant hours spent working out my wedding seating chart.)

We all know that teachers’ and administrators’ decisions aren’t arbitrary, but I admit I hadn’t considered the many, many factors that go into determining which student goes into which class. A few schools spell them out online, and they include:

• The child’s intellectual, social, emotional, and behavioral developmental levels & needs

• The preferred learning style(s) of the student

• The child’s physical and social maturity

• The child’s interactions with other students

• The age of the child

• The “social dynamics” factors within the class

• Fair distribution of children with exceptionalities

• The best use of resource teachers & teacher assistants

• The male/female balance in each class

• The balance of leaders in each class (Interesting!)

• Student friendships

One particular school district in Wisconsin must get a lot of commentary on its placement system, because the administration has created an extensive FAQ document to address it. The questions range from the general (“Can I request a particular teacher for my child?”) to the specific (“I have noticed that a small group of my child’s friends have been together in classes for a few years in a row, but my child has been in different classes. Is favoritism going on here? Are other parents making requests, and my child is being placed anywhere because I am not making a request?”).

I’m really curious to hear how your town handles class placements–will you share in the comments? And here’s to a happy and successful school year for everyone!

What Teachers Want Parents to Know
What Teachers Want Parents to Know
What Teachers Want Parents to Know

Photo: Teacher in class showing students a nest via Shutterstock.

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Stop Summer Slide

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

“School’s out for summer.” I used to play that Alice Cooper song for my son on the last day of classes (the Muppets version) as a celebration of his 10-week break from homework (and pencils, books, and teacher’s dirty looks). But as it turns out, I probably shouldn’t have been hailing his educational break. The National Summer Learning Association says that students lose about two months worth of skills in mathematics during the lazy days of summer. And as we reported, kids of all ages score lower on the same standardized reading, spelling, and math tests in September than they do at the end of the previous year in school.

The reason for this “summer slide,” a.k.a. “brain drain” or “summer slump,” is obvious: Kids—and, to an extent, parents—tend to view July and August as a break from learning, a time to enjoy the beach and the pool and recharge. R&R is all fine and good. The real problem is that many children wile away the days watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the Web. Kids spend three hours in front of a screen for every hour they crack a book during the summer—and more time than they spend outdoors. According to a new survey from the nonprofit kid’s literacy group Reading is Fundamental, only 17 percent of parents say reading is a top summer priority for their kids, and 60 percent don’t worry about their child losing reading skills during this time.

Actually, you really shouldn’t worry, because it’s easy to do something about it. A nonprofit organization called TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment) offers lots of screen-free ideas to inspire your family to play and learn together. Try incorporating some of these fun, mind-building activities into your kids’ break. Also consider downloading these educational apps, which at least turn screen time into learning time. And check out ideas here and here, along with a video chat with Soleil Moon Frye (the former star of “Blossom”) about how to stop summer slide.

I don’t pretend to have any magical suggestions for preventing this phenomenon. I worry about my kids and their tendency to gravitate toward watching sports events and Disney shows. To minimize this, we encourage reading and writing for pleasure, try to get them out of the house as much as possible, and look for teachable moments in leisure-time settings, such as digging for hermit crabs at the beach and calculating batting averages and ERAs at baseball games. Granted, these are no substitute for cracking the books, but at least they should leave our children be better prepared when their teachers see them in September.


Back to School: Handling Worries
Back to School: Handling Worries
Back to School: Handling Worries


Two little girls with magnifying glass outdoors in the daytime via ShutterStock

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The American Academy of Pediatrics Releases New Policy on Reading to Kids During Infancy

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Mom reading book to babyFor the first time, the AAP has made an official stand on early literacy, releasing a new policy today that advocates reading aloud to children every day, beginning from birth. The new policy urges pediatricians and policy makers to ensure that books are available to all families, particularly those with low income.

In addition to the announcement, the AAP has also partnered with four organizations, the Clinton Foundation, Too Small to Fail, Scholastic, and Reach Out and Read, to implement the new policy. The AAP and Too Small to Fail are creating a toolkit to include guidelines for parents on the importance of reading from infancy, which will be distributed to 62,000 pediatricians in the AAP network. Scholastic is also donating 50,000 children’s books that Reach Out and Read will distribute to 20,000 medical providers.

The AAP recommends restricting TV time for kids under 2 in favor of interactive play, and reading books can certainly be a part of that. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Pamela High, M.D., the lead author on the AAP early literacy policy, recommends that parents focus on the 5 Rs of early education: read together, rhyme and play with words, set consistent routines, reward with praise, and develop a strong relationship.

Being exposed to books at a young age will also foster early education, help kids prepare for school later in life, and possibly reduce the educational gap between low- and high-income families. There are also several amazing benefits of reading out loud to babies — it strengthens bonding, increases language skills, improves vocabulary, boosts brain activity, and fine-tunes social and emotional recognition — all important things for baby’s development. So grab some board books and start shaping a little bookworm today!

Activity Tips: Mia Reads Book
Activity Tips: Mia Reads Book
Activity Tips: Mia Reads Book

Image: Mother and child reading a book via Shutterstock

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Made With Code: Why Teaching Code to Young Girls Matters

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Made With Code Google Mindy KalingIf hearing the word “coding” conjures up images of men sitting in the semi-dark, staring at computer screens filled with an endless jumble of  numbers, letters, and symbols, Google’s on a mission to dispel the stereotype that coding is boring, difficult, and just for men.

On Thursday, Google debuted Made W/ Code (, a site and program dedicated to inspiring young girls to learn code by connecting them with other like-minded female coders and letting them create colorful projects like animated avatars, short soundtracks, and customized bracelets (create one using a 3D printer here!) — all for free.

Currently, in the U.S., only 12 percent of computer science graduates are women and only 1 in 5 programmers are female. Google itself admitted only 17% of their programmers are female! With such low numbers, the site aims to show girls how fun coding can be in order to reduce the gender gap in the computer science and tech industry.

We attended the Made W/ Code launch event, which was hosted by Mindy Kaling (who got involved because of her best friend’s app company) and featured speakers like Chelsea Clinton, Megan Smith (VP of Google[x]), Pixar’s Danielle Feinberg (who worked on “Brave” and “Finding Nemo”), iLuminate’s Miral Kotb (who created a dance troupe fusing moves with LED costumes), and UNICEF’s Erika Kochi (who created a mobile system to track birth rates and diseases in poor countries). Some of the women talked about learning to write code as young as 7- and 9-years-old, which sparked a lifelong interest. In the audience were teen girls from local schools who were also interested in and involved in coding. By exciting and encouraging girls at a young age, Google hopes to reshape the perception of the tech industry and improve diversity so that a new generation will dare to do extraordinary things — with code, of course.

Made with Code Google bracelets Shapeways

Here are some of our editors’ thoughts after attending the Made W/ Code launch:

Allison Berry, Editorial Assistant, Parents magazine
I couldn’t get over how empowering each speaker was! All my life my engineer dad has been telling me that I should get into STEM, but it just never clicked with me. After listening to brilliant women like Pixar’s Danielle Feinberg and iLuminate’s Miral Kotb talk about how coding brought them to their dream careers, my interest was definitely piqued. They did a wonderful job of explaining not only how coding is an essential part of their jobs, but also how it plays into our everyday life. Now I’m curious to know what I could do if I knew how to code!

Chrisanne Grise, Editorial Assistant, Parents magazine 
For me, the best part of the event was being surrounded by so much girl power. It was impossible not to be moved by the incredible women who have used code to make such an impact on the world. I was particularly inspired by Danielle Feinberg, the Director of Photography for Lighting at Pixar. She spoke to the teen girls about her own high school experience as the only girl in an engineering class. (Naturally, she showed up all the boys!) It was a funny story, but also a great reminder to be brave and stay true to your passions, no matter what anyone else thinks. At the end of the night, I felt empowered and ready to take on the world — and wondering if I should have studied computer science instead of journalism!

Sherry Huang, Features Editor,
When I was in college, I took a computer science 101-type class that introduced me to the world of binary numbers, basic HTML coding, javascript, CSS, and all these other scary-sounding acronyms. Long story short, I did not do well in that class. Ironically, in spite of that, I landed a web editorial job after college that required me to use basic HTML to code text and build tables in stories. So…somehow, the class I hated became the class that helped “launch” my career. At the Code event, I learned that early exposure, encouragement (from parents and teachers), and knowledge of potential career options were important to helping girls pursue a field dominated by men. Even though I learned coding “late” in life, I wish I had known super women like Feinberg, Kotb, and Kochi to help dispel the confusion and disappointment I felt. But I’m truly excited that these women are paving the way for younger women to pursue their coding dreams.

Watch a video below to learn more about Made W/ Code:

Photos by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic for Google

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Project iGuardian: Help Stop Online Sexual Predators

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

The Internet has transformed how children learn and communicate, for better and for worse. On one hand, it has brought a wealth of information and research to kids’ fingertips at the click of a button. However, the Internet can be extremely dangerous. The web is the preferred playground for sexual predators, according to Harold Ort, public affairs officer for ICE. Any child with access to a computer or a smartphone is at risk. Last year, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) logged nearly a million hours working over 4,000 online sexual predator investigations.

A crucial component of reducing the number of sexual exploitation cases is education. “The online sexual exploitation of children has reached epidemic proportions. Increasingly these incidents involve young people who are self-producing explicit images and sending them over the Internet. We can’t arrest our way out of this problem. Raising awareness about the risks that lurk in cyberspace is key to helping keep kids safe,” ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale said. To promote more widespread Internet safety education, the HSI and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) launched Project iGuardian, the first national cyber safety campaign of its kind, in March. The project’s mission is to teach kids — and to help parents and educators teach kids — to “think before you click” in this digital age. Here are four ways you can use iGuardian’s resources to help keep your kids safe online:

  1. Request to have iGuardian talk to your kid’s school or your organization. HSI special agents and law enforcement officers give hands-on, age-appropriate tips on how to avoid online sexual predators to both students and parents. Younger kids receive trading cards that separate the good guys from the bad guys, making the experience interactive and more memorable. To ask for a presentation, email
  2. Check out the NetSmartz Education Outreach Program provided by NCMEC. has games, videos, and more to introduce kids to Internet safety. educates parents on how to prevent and report instances of child exploitation. The website breaks down cyber safety by topics ranging from blogging to gaming to sexting.
  3. Download the Operation Predator app on iTunes. The Operation Predator app was designed to seek the public’s help in tracking down suspect child predators. Users can receive alerts about wanted predators and can share the information with friends through email or social media. Parents with this app can also look at the latest news about arrests and prosecutions of child predators.
  4. Know who to call. If you suspect a crime, call (866) 347-2423 or go to the HSI Tip Line. Report suspected child exploitation or missing children to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678.

Even the brightest kids can fall victim to sexual predators, according to Ort. It is so important to educate them before something happens. Project iGuardian has set out to do just that.

Have your family sign our internet contract and shop tech-free educational toys.  

What to Consider Before Handing Your Child a Smartphone
What to Consider Before Handing Your Child a Smartphone
What to Consider Before Handing Your Child a Smartphone

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