December 31, 2010

In Long Beach, a promise to help struggling students

by Carla Rivera, originally published in The Los Angeles Times on 10/29/2010

An innovative system of help centers aims to give students extra support in such courses as math and English to ensure that they stay in college and eventually move on to four-year programs.

For Christian Garcia, the most immediate hurdle to his goal of becoming a recording engineer is the intermediate algebra he’s been laboring over all day in a Long Beach City College student center.

Grasping the complex equations will allow him to pass the class and move on to the higher-level math courses he needs to transfer to a four-year university. It’s hard work for Garcia, but his grades this semester have steadily improved with the tutoring and other help he’s received at the campus center. “I got a really low grade on the first test,” Garcia, 20, said. “I wasn’t feeling good and I was really frustrated. But now I’m hoping to get at least a B in the class. Without the help I’m getting here, I’d have no chance.”

The center is part of a program called the Long Beach College Promise, an unusual collaboration involving the Long Beach Unified School District and Cal State Long Beach that is tackling the barriers that prevent many students from succeeding in college.

A report released last week showed that 70% of students seeking degrees at California’s community colleges either did not attain them or didn’t transfer to four-year universities wtihin six years. The Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at Cal State Sacramento found that most of those students eventually dropped out.

Against that backdrop, the Long Beach initiative is being hailed as a national model. Now in its third year, it is intended to provide a seamless, coordinated system of information, intervention and academic preparation from kindergarten to graduate school. The program received national attention at an education summit in Washington last week.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,High School,Peer-Tutoring,Training/Education

December 26, 2010

Kaplan Takes Aim At The Princeton Review’s Test Preparation Claims

Originally published in The Business Link on 11/8/2010

Students seeking help preparing for advanced education admission tests may benefit from the National Advertising Division’s opinion in the challenge of one test preparation company’s claims by another. More enlightening, perhaps, are the challenged claims and the issues they present.

The Princeton Review (“TPR”) and Kaplan, Inc. (“Kaplan”) both provide test preparation courses for college (SAT), medical school (MCAT), law school (LSAT), graduate management school (GMAT), and graduate record examination (GRE). TPR had made a number of claims in print, direct marketing, social media, and on the Internet, such as that their students’ GMAT scores improved by an average of 90 points, SAT scores by an average of 255 points, MCAT scores by an average of 10 points.

Kaplan’s Challenges

Kaplan challenged these claims, pointing out a number of flaws in the basis for them. For example, TPR’s claims were not based upon improvement from one actual exam to another, but upon improvement between a first “diagnostic” test, created and scored by TPR, and the scores students, themselves, reported after taking the actual exam after TPR’s course. Additionally, Kaplan charged that TPR’s own tests were only loosely modeled upon actual tests and were not equated to actual tests either in content or scoring scales. Thus there was neither the consistent relationship between the two points measured nor the consistent means and circumstances of measurement that would be required for precise comparison.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Commercial Providers

December 16, 2010

Putting your writing center experience to work

by Lisa Whalen, Concordia Univeristy and originally published in the Writing Lab Newsletter, May 2005, Page 9

Many students and professionals, as they prepare to enter or change positions in the workforce, find themselves at a loss as to how to put their skills, qualities, and work experience into concise written formats such as resumes and cover letters. Often, the most promising job opportunities appear suddenly and from unexpected sources, so we feel rushed to create or modify and submit our resumes before hiring deadlines expire.

In doing so, we slap “writing tutor” under the past work experience section of our resumes and leave it at that. Unfortunately, in leaving our resumes that way, we do ourselves a great disservice. What many of us who do writing center work, particularly student tutors, don’t think about intentionally enough is the range of skills we develop, the personal qualities we foster, and the applicable experience we gain as a result of our participation in writing center work. The broad range of relevant skills writing center work provides are the same skills employers seek, no matter what the profession.

When thinking about writing center experiences and how they might apply to other careers, we tend, too often, to think only of the obvious: editing, publishing, proofreading, marketing, teaching. But when examined in some detail, what we learn as writing center tutors and professionals provides a wealth of experience for nearly any profession. From law enforcement and the legal profession to politics, customer service, technology, and management, employers are looking for employees who can work independently, communicate clearly, think critically, and assess social and professional situations and respond appropriately.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,College,Training/Education

December 6, 2010

After-school program passing test of helping children learn

by Blaudio Boyd-Barret, originally published in The Toledo Blade on 10/11/10

Ten-year-old Jerry Harrison wants to go to college and study math.

Eighth grader Shayla Gilmer would like to attend Harvard and become a lawyer.

Chris Amato, president of the after-school program Kids Unlimited, is determined to see those dreams become reality.

For four years, Mr. Amato and a crew of 80 educators and volunteers have worked with central-city children such as Jerry and Shayla at grade schools in Toledo. There, they assist students who often are struggling academically because of problems related to poverty, family turmoil, or lack of parental support at home.

The program – which runs for about three to four hours after each school day – provides homework help, tutoring in math and language arts, and development of positive behaviors, such as respect for others and self-discipline through role-playing and games.

Statistics compiled by Kids Unlimited show the program has made a big impact on student performance at school, with participating children scoring significantly higher on state exams than their peers.

“I’ve seen nothing turn into something. I’ve seen children with behavior issues, academic issues, make a complete turn for the better,” said program director Ernest Martin, who calls himself the Kids Unlimited “patriarch” because of his role as chief disciplinarian. “I’ve seen seeds being planted in young people’s lives … and I’ve seen the seeds growing.”

One of those sprouting seeds is Jerry, a fifth grader, at Northpointe Academy who just started his second year with Kids Unlimited. His tutor, Chantel Clariett, said when he began the program, he had trouble sitting through class, never finished his homework, and was easily provoked into acting aggressively. Now, through individualized attention and strict behavior coaching at Kids Unlimited, Jerry gets his work done and is no longer quick to jump into a fight, Ms. Clariett said. The turnaround has helped his grades.

“I’m extremely proud of him because he’s really putting forth that effort,” said Ms. Clariett, who on a recent afternoon was working with Jerry and six other children on spelling, reading, and math in a classroom at Northpointe. “You can just see him maturing as a young man.” Jerry, who admitted he wasn’t working very hard at school before he joined Kids Unlimited, said participating in the program has taught him about being successful.

“I’m getting all A’s for my homework,” he said proudly. “I want to go on to eighth grade. I want to pass all my grades.”

To read more click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Community

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