Friday, August 30, 2013

Passion for learning

Radio Commentary

Turning children into lifelong learners can be the ultimate joy for teachers and parents alike.
The benefits of this effort will continue to emerge throughout an entire lifetime.
Getting A’s is a great feeling for a student. But in the long run, generating a genuine curiosity and desire to learn can make a bigger difference than any grade on a test.
Imagine the potential of children who are curious about the world around them and who are happy with themselves. 
That combination can lead to success in almost any arena.
Parents and teachers have the power to set the tone for a child’s academic accomplishments.
Praise children for their effort, for working independently, and for the energy they’ve spent in achieving a goal.
The process of studying well and learning completely should be the highest priority.
If you look behind good grades you will often find a great deal of love and support.
Your children deserve the best chance to become true, lifelong learners. 
Help maintain their enthusiasm for gaining knowledge, not just good grades.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gallop Poll: Parents' approval of schools at record levels

August 28, 2013

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools
There is much to celebrate in the most recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll, which has measured Americans’ attitudes toward public schools for the past 45 years.
A large majority of respondents continue to give their local schools high marks for overall performance, and that evaluation increases in direct proportion to the closeness of the respondent to a school. The 71 percent of parents who graded their own children’s schools with an A or a B was the highest percentage the poll has ever recorded.
Overwhelmingly, Americans say they trust their teachers and principals, and nearly 90 percent of parents feel their children are safe on campus — also the highest percentage ever.
As the longest-running survey of American attitudes toward education, the annual PDK/Gallup Poll provides extensive and trusted data about changes in Americans’ perceptions as well as their current views. 
As in prior years, respondents in 2013 said the biggest challenge facing public schools is a lack of financial support. Responding to an open-ended question, not a fixed list of choices, Americans gave this answer more than four times as often as any other.
Other results included:
  •  Solid majorities of parents say that their children are healthier, more involved in their communities, have “substantially higher well-being,” and better relationships with their friends and family members because of the schools they attend.
  •  Majorities support alternatives such as public charter schools, home schooling in partnership with public schools, and some forms of self-paced learning and online education, but nearly 70 percent oppose public funding for students to attend private schools. That was the highest level of opposition in the survey’s history.
  •  Nearly 90 percent of respondents believe that activities such as band, drama, sports, and the student newspaper are important.
  •  A majority favors preschool programs for low-income children as a way to improve their academic performance as teenagers.

This year’s poll, conducted less than six months after the horrific fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., also asked numerous questions about safety and security. Among those findings were:
  • Nearly 90 percent of parents felt their children were safe at school, far more than the number who said they were safe when playing in their own neighborhoods. 
  •  To increase school safety, nearly twice as many parents favored additional funding for mental health services as those who wanted to hire more security guards.
  •  A majority said schools should use procedures to screen visitors that are similar to those used in government buildings. Respondents were ambivalent about whether schools should use armed guards, but a clear majority opposed having teachers and administrators carry weapons. 

When asked a series of questions on what schools should teach, respondents said it was most important for students to learn critical-thinking and communication skills. After that, the public said students should learn how to set meaningful goals, and skills to increase collaboration, creativity, well-being, and character. This list of the public’s priorities matches up well with the new Common Core State Standards curriculum that California schools are adopting this year.
The report contains other interesting findings, but in summary they show clearly that Americans value their public schools and want them to be supported financially. It is particularly encouraging to see that parents give their children’s schools high marks for both educational effectiveness and safety, and that the public also favors our schools’ new academic emphasis on critical thinking and other skills that will better prepare our students for college and careers in the 21st century.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

After school sports

Radio Commentary

After-school sports can be the best part of a student’s day, but they can also cause problems or become a source of high levels of stress.
Clearly there are many benefits involved with sports. Here are some of the many positives:
Sports help students keep fit and active.
They can help develop self-esteem through achievements on the field.
They help students learn the value of teamwork, one of the most valuable skills a young person can develop.  
Here are some of the possible challenges for students who play sports:
Some students believe if they are good in sports, they don’t have to work hard in class. They become popular or well regarded for their athletic abilities and feel that is good enough. 
Some students find sports highly stressful if they cannot perform to their own expectations or those of their family or teammates. 
And some students want to win at any cost, no matter what. Let your child know that winning is not the only thing that matters.
The value of effort, team work, good sportsmanship and improved skills should all be sources of pride as well. Those are the real lessons to be learned from school sports.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cirone on Schools July 2013

Ed Cora
Guadalupe Union School District

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sleep for teens

Radio Commentary

For years parents and educators have known that teens do not get enough sleep to meet their health needs. Now there is a new culprit: their cell phones.
Parents may be unaware that many teens sleep with their cell phones by their side, answering calls or text messaging throughout the night.
As a result, teens come to school very tired, and they even start experiencing the kind of ailments that arise from too little sleep.
Research has documented that, on average, teenagers have traditionally gotten about two hours less sleep every night than they need. This raises their risk of accidents and makes them moody.
In the past, this was caused by teens generally staying up too late and waking too early for the needs of their bodies. But these figures were calculated BEFORE the prevalence of cell phones.
According to research, teen bodies need nine hours and fifteen minutes of sleep per night. Prior to the advent of cell phones as bedmates, teens were getting an average of only seven hours of sleep per night. Now the numbers are far lower.
And fitful sleep, in short bursts, is not as healthful as uninterrupted sleep, so the health implications are far more grave than ever.
For example, of the estimated 100,000 car crashes a year linked to drowsy driving, almost half involve drivers age 16-24, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. What’s more, like all of us, teens get more emotional when they are sleep-deprived.
The best thing a parent can do to help teens get the sleep they need is to make sure there is no cell phone by their side when they go to bed. Period. Turn it off and take it away. It’s good parenting.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Schools and skills

Radio Commentary

            There is no thrill quite like the one that comes from mastering a challenge.
Remember the first time you realized the marks on a page were words, and you could understand them?
Or the first time you looked through a microscope, played an instrument, or understood what someone was saying in another language?
U.S. schools seek to give that same opportunity to every child every day by helping students set high standards and specific goals.
Education also gives students life skills like self-discipline, patience, and knowledge about the importance of sharing, for example. Students learn to pay attention when others are speaking.
Many schools also teach children how to solve disagreements through conflict resolution. Extracurricular activities, from student government offices to volunteer projects, also offer chances to learn life skills.
Wrote author Tomas Henry Huxley: “Perhaps the most valuable result of education is the ability to make yourself do the things you have to do, when they ought to be done, whether you like it or not.”
And former Xerox CEO David Kearns added: “Education not only imparts the great lessons of history, citizenship, and science, it teaches people to think, to solve problems, to take risks, to be an entrepreneur, and an innovator.”
That is, in fact, the great strength of the American public school system and always has been. It deserves our support.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What parents should know about HS

Radio Commentary

        What do parents need to know about high school?
Beyond the school calendar and what classes your student will take, you should also be familiar with graduation requirements and the classes available to prepare students for life after high school.
Get clear on the school’s academic and social standards.
Find out about the California High School Exit Exam.
Here are some tips for staying informed:

  • Obtain and read everything the school offers. Gather newsletters, handbooks, notices and course descriptions. Read it all.
  • Get to know the staff. Know everyone from the principal and school secretary to the teachers. Make an appointment for face-to-face meetings. Plan your questions before you arrive.  
  • Talk to other parents. Information about special programs, scholarships and good classes can all come from other parents. It is especially helpful to talk to parents who have older children.
  • Ask questions. That’s your right. And the staff at local high schools are eager to answer all your questions.
  • Finally, check homework. You can get a lot of information by spot-checking assignments.  

Looking at homework not only lets you know what your child is doing, it also tells him or her that you believe homework is important. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Parent's checklist

Radio Commentary

Parents often ask what they can do to help prepare their children for school.
The most important parent involvement comes from setting a tone of respect and appreciation for education in general, and for school rules in particular.
            Here’s a checklist that has proven helpful for many families:
• Did my child get a good breakfast this morning? Children learn better when they arrive well-nourished.
• Did I provide a nutritious lunch or money to buy one?
• After school, did my child have a chance to tell me what happened today and to share concerns or excitement?
• Did my child use the agreed-upon time to complete all homework? This should be the number one priority each night.
• Did I make time to help my child with any problems that arose? Explaining things right away can often make the biggest difference.
• Does my child have any tests tomorrow? If so, has the needed studying been done?
• Have I read with my child? Has she read alone?
• Will my child get to bed at the regular time tonight?
These are good questions to pose. They provide the basic building blocks for success in any classroom.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Teach goal-setting

Radio Commentary

One key ingredient to success in any field is being prepared. Setting goals and working to reach them is a discipline that assures a measure of success regardless of the task at hand.
Taking young people step-by-step through a goal-setting process is very helpful.
            To start the process, ask young people to identify one learning goal they have for the week — like turning in a report on time, reading two chapters, or memorizing a certain number of vocabulary words.
            Have them write the goal down and keep it where they can see it every day.
            Show them how to break the goal into smaller steps. Using a written report as an example, they could read two chapters every day, and spend one day writing the report.
Help them identify obstacles to achieving their goal, like sports practices, music rehearsal, other homework, or even fatigue. Help them devise ways to overcome those obstacles.
            Show them how to use self-motivation. Ask them to think about how they will benefit directly when they reach their goal.
            Make sure they check in with you as the week progresses. Identify problems that arise and talk about solutions.
            At the end of the week, have them evaluate how they did, and use that information to set a new goal for the next week.
            After a few weeks of using this technique, most students can continue the cycle on their own, setting goals and working to reach them. It is a very valuable discipline to master.