Back to School Night

The kids are back in school and should be settling in with their homework routine, fall activities, getting to know their teacher and classmates and hopefully filling you in a bit on their day!

With the start of school, I have found several articles to get me in the back to school mindset too. As a parent of two high school students, I found the article posted on Grown and Flown about communication and expectations for your high school student and teachers to be very timely. I find myself relating to so many articles posted on Grown and Flown and I subscribe to their inbox delivery.

https://grownandflown.com/help-kid-high-school-teacher-shows/

Also, with Back to School Nights on everyone’s schedule over the next few weeks, the article from The Washington Post outlines the 7 questions parents need to ask on back to school night. This is a great read and worth saving to revisit each year prior to attending your child’s back to school event.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2018/08/29/7-questions-you-need-to-ask-on-back-to-school-night/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.8eb9c42607e5

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Your child's social skills in kindergarten are more important than their academics

 

I love when someone else publishes an article that works perfect for my blog. I have attached the link to an excellent read from Amanda Morgan and published on the blog - Motherly.  

While early education creates an important foundation for academic skills, many parents would be surprised to know that social skills are actually far more predictive of outcomes into adulthood than early academics.

https://www.mother.ly/your-childs-social-skills-in-kindergarten-are-more-important-than-their-academics

 

 

Reducing the Stress of Taking Tests

As an Associate Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, I am able to participate in monthly webinars lead by education experts across the U.S. This month, I listened to Barb Sapir from Test Prep/San Francisco and Test Prep/NY discuss her program for working with students to help reduce the stress of test taking - focused on the ACT and SAT for college admittance.

While, I don't work with college students, I felt this was of value and many of her tips are helpful for middle school and high school students that have occasional test anxiety and do not qualify for test taking accommodations.  She provided many mindset tools and test taking strategies and also encouraged each student to understand their learning style:  Kinesthetic, Reading/Writing, Auditory or Visual.  

Concerns about not having enough time to complete the test and overall anxiety about taking a test were the two main issues from all the consultants polled for this webinar. One way to help in this area is to develop a Personal Plan that goes beyond basic test taking strategies (go with your first thought...) and encourages the student to commit to a method of study (it could be in a group, with a tutor, on own) and parents can help the student to identify a specific place in the house (or library, local cafe) as their test study location.  

Students also need to understand what material they need to master. Many middle school and high school students spend too much time studying what they already know (or find easy) and save the more challenging material to right before the test or quiz.  Ms. Sapir also stated many of the students that come to her for consultation need help with time management when taking a test and most often this is simply coaching the child on speed reading techniques. Reading speed is the main reason students have difficulty completing a test - it is not reading comprehension or their lack of knowing the material.

Most students polled for her presentation answered they "just hope for the best" when taking a test, even when anxiety has hindered their past performances. Her presentation went beyond "hope for the best" and offered easy tips for students to try including breathing techniques, writing down/journaling their concerns and committing to a positive mindset.

Lastly, she spoke of many mindfulness techniques that students of all ages may practice leading up to a test or even stopping during the exam for a 15 second - 1 minute mindfulness break when they feel their anxiety level rising. Even though I don't sit for exams anymore, I  found many of her points helpful for everyday life stresses or dealing with my own children's anxiety around test taking too. 

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Seattle Public Schools - Upcoming Changes - High School - Science, Boundaries and HCC

A lot is happenings with Seattle Public Schools right now and I will focus this blog on high school changes including final decisions on boundary and HCC changes and the recent announcement impacting the high school science curriculum. I have attended several of the district meetings and will continue to follow, as there remains many unanswered questions. All these changes impact current and new families moving to Seattle. Many of these issues have been unresolved and I am glad to be able to finally provide clearer information to families relocating to Seattle.  

As of the January 31st Seattle School Board meeting, there are no high school boundary changes for the 2018-19 school year, but changes are approved for the 2019-20 school year. All 9th graders in fall of 2019 will be assigned to their attendance area high school based on the approved 2019-20 boundaries. All 9th graders attending Ballard or Roosevelt in 2018-19 as their attendance area school and who live in areas that are changing to the Lincoln High School attendance area in the fall of 2019 will be geo-split, meaning they will start 10th grade at Lincoln High School.

The boundary pathways for High School HCC (highly capable) was under review and decisions for the 2018-19 school year were also confirmed at the January 31st Seattle School Board meeting.  Beginning in 2019-20, there will be three HC pathways: a north pathway at Lincoln High School (new to open school in September 2019), a central/southeast pathway at Garfield High School and a southwest pathway at West Seattle High School. The IBX (International Baccalaureate) program at Ingraham High School remains as an optional pathway.

The current high school science changes will be put into place for the current freshman class, Class of 2021. These students will be required to have three credits (three full years) in science instead of the current two year requirement. There is also a new required exam at the end of junior year, the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science. This exam will now be a graduation requirement. This exam is based on the new Washington State Science Standards which were adopted by the State in 2013.

The sequence of classes is also changing and now looks different vs the sequence offered in the Bellevue, Lake Washington, Issaquah Public School Districts and also most Seattle area independent schools. This is causing a bit of confusion and I will continue to follow. 

I am still trying to understand how this impacts AP offerings and if the Ballard Biotech Program will be impacted for the class of 2021 and later. It also appears that no other district is making such comprehensive changes to meet the state standard and this is continuing to cause confusion for Seattle School District families.  

I am always here to assist your family and do my best to stay on top of all the Seattle area district changes (ncluding Mercer Island, Bellevue, Issaquah and Lake Washington) to help you make the best decision for your family.  

 

     

     

     

    Parent Teacher Conference Tips

    Just read this excellent article from the New York Times on parent teacher conferences and how to get the most out of your conference.  Perfect timing with the areas public and independent schools all in first quarter conference mode.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/well/family/5-lessons-from-a-diplomat-for-bridging-the-parent-teacher-divide.html

     

    Charter Schools 101

     

    I will admit that I do not know a lot about Charter Schools and there are currently only eight charter schools operating across Washington State. With Charter Schools and Vouchers in the news both nationally and locally,  I hope you find this information of value. 

    "Most Americans misunderstand charter schools," was the finding of the 2014 PDK/Gallup poll on public attitudes toward education. The survey found broad support for charters, but also revealed that 48 percent of Americans didn't know charter schools were public. Fifty-seven percent thought they charged tuition. And nearly half thought charters were allowed to teach religion.

    The term "charter" refers to the decision by states to turn public education into a two-sector system. One is a traditional school district, centrally managed. The other, charter schools, are independent, not owned by a central school board. Both are public, but they're organized in very different ways. A local school district does not tell charters what kind of curriculum to use, what company to contract for supplies and they may hire and fire teachers without a contract. It also leaves the charters and their oversight committee responsible to make sure all student's needs are met including ESL and special services.

    There are currently 6.900 charter schools across the U.S. They are publicly-funded, privately-run schools with the first one opening in St. Paul, Minn., in 1992. Today, they enroll about 3.1 million students in 43 states.

    Fifteen percent of the nation's 6,900 charters are for-profit.  Depending on the state laws, a charter school can hire a for-profit company to manage its school. In Michigan, 80 percent are for profit, more than any other state.

    Funding for Charter Schools - I had a hard time finding information on the funding of Charter Schools.  The funding appears to vary by state -  with a potential mix of local, state and federal dollars. Each state has its own laws and regulations for distributing that money to districts and individual schools. A major concern is that charter schools will take money away from the already underfunded public schools. 

    Evaluating Charter Schools - In general, they're evaluated based on test scores, graduation rates, finances — the same as traditional public schools. There is a big inconsistency state-to-state in how well that's done. One of the debates is the need for better oversight of charters. Charter supporters don't want a lot of oversight.. When a charter school is not doing well, the state has to step in with most closures occurring due to financial reasons and poor management.  There are numerous incidents of charter schools closing suddenly and disrupting the student's learning. When this occurs, it requires the public schools to admit an entire school and classrooms of students mid-term.  

    Charter Schools and Washington State:

    The Washington State Supreme Court ruled last year that charter schools were unconstitutional in our State.  In Aprli 2016, the state’s charter schools were allowed to continue by a legislative bill that Gov. Jay Inslee allowed to become law without requiring his signature. 

    Currently, eight charter schools serve 1600 students across the state.  With the opening of three more charter schools planned to open the Fall of 2017 - one in South Seattle, one in West Seattle and one in Walla Walla.   A majority of Washington State charter schools serve students of color with reduced-free breakfast and lunch programs.

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    Special Needs Resources

    I love working with families to find the right fit school and community for all their children.  As I tell my client families, I am a local resource and spend hours and hours visiting schools, establishing relationships and, most importantly, learning.  A few weeks ago I attended the Every Child Resource Fair sponsored by ParentMap Magazine at the University of Washington and I had the opportunity to meet smart, committed people, hear about their organizations, expand my resource list, and learn! 

    The event featured experts who focus on the many categories of atypical learners: ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, processing disorders, developmental delays, autism, Asperger’s and other spectrum learning differences.  I met with over 20 different organizations and left the event with an increased understanding of all the resources available to families in the Seattle area.  Seattle continues to lead on autism research and resources, ADHD services and support and is home to Seattle Children's Hospital and the University of Washington - both leaders in the country for children's health.

    The event concluded with ADHD expert Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of bestsellers Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction, providing a basic introduction to the world of attention deficit disorder. Dr. Hallowell discussed diagnosis and treatment in both children and adults and also explored the brain science and current research. Having both ADD and dyslexia himself, Dr. Hallowell spoke about the powers and gifts that come with having ADHD -  the impact of ADHD on the family, and his life-long goal: to help people master the power of ADHD.

    The Every Child Resource Fair showcased what Seattle has to offer for all families and their children. This event is just one of the many way I continue to learnand enables me to connect newly arrived families with the resources they need to call Seattle home. 

    Lakeside's New Micro School

    Projected to Open Fall 2018

    There has been a lot of talk about Lakeside expanding their school in Seattle. While demand at Lakeside's original campus continues to be high, the school administration is looking at other way to educate students outside of their traditional school and campus.

    I had a very informative phone call with Sue Belcher, Lakeside School's Director of Micro School Research and Development to learn more about this new school model. They refer to their new school as a micro school. Lakeside's micro school will have a different education model, but still keeps to their standards of academic excellence and innovation. 

    The school is slated to open for the 2018-19 school year and will service grades 9-12 with 160 total students = 40 students across each grade.  When the school opens in the Fall of 2018, it will accept only 9th and 10th grade students and (80 students total) grow by a grade each year (adding a new 9th grade class each application year) until reaching capacity and filling out all four grade levels by the 2021-22 school year. 

    They are currently scouting downtown South Seattle locations and access to light rail is a priority. It will not be a campus school, but instead reside in an office building or like structure with a lease secured by winter 2017. The tuition is currently estimated at $17K per year (vs Lakeside's main campus cost of $32K per year).  This cost will make the school more affordable to families looking for a private school and also reflects a no frills school model. They do not anticipate the micro school will pull from the current Lakeside population, but will draw in a new group of students seeking out this style of learning experience at a lower price point.  What is a no frills model? No athletics (students will be able to participate at their local public school), PE classes or art electives.  

    The micro school will integrate the city into the curriculum including required internships. The core curriculum for each grade will be signature to Lakeside and also revolve around a singular learning concept for each grade incorporating history, English and math.  The school will teach wellness and art appreciation with the goal of utilizing the city and neighborhood resources. Spanish language will be the only foreign language option.  They may also utilize the growing online program, Global Online Academy, to add additional course offerings geared toward the independent student.

    I am looking forward to following the development of Lakeside's micro school and will continue to see how other Seattle area schools move forward and introduce new learning models.
     
    It is already application time for independent schools for the 2017-18 school year and I am in the middle of touring many of them.  I have 12 tours scheduled over the next month and I am always happy to talk to families about the Seattle independent school scene. 

     

    Racial diversity and Seattle area schools

    Racially diverse schools and communities are top of mind for many of my client families moving from outside of the Seattle area.  Many families are coming from international schools, large metropolitan areas (like Boston, NYC) and have questions about Seattle area public schools with regards to race and family income. 

    I find many families unfamiliar with Seattle view it as a very homogeneous city and are surprised when they see how diverse many of the schools are with regard to race and income.  I also assist families coming from smaller school districts and city suburbs and their children have not been in a racially diverse school and they have questions about how schools in the Seattle area "look and feel" compared to their current district. 

    Seattle no longer buses students outside of their neighborhood schools and schools reflect the population of the neighborhood. The Eastside (Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland) never bussed outside of area and their schools racial make up has changed along with the changing population following the tech industry. 

    Recently, The Seattle Times published this very informative article about race and our public schools andincluded an interactive tool to view your school or target school and look up the diversity index score for any school in King or Snohomish County.

    http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/west-seattles-sanislo-elementary-most-racially-diverse-public-school-in-the-state/?utm_source=referral&utm_medium=mobile-app&utm_campaign=ios

    I am available to discuss these statistics and specific schools assisting you in finding the right fit schools for your children. 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Understanding Standardized Testing

    I am asked on a regular basis by families relocating to Washington State to explain required testing for our public schools to meet the State Common Core standards and also graduation requirements. Part of my service includes putting together informational documents for my clients comparing their current testing schedule with the requirements for Washington State.

    With the recent demise of the No Child Left Behind Law and its replacement with the Every Student Succeed Act (signed into Federal law by President Obama in December 2015), it is not only confusing for current families to understand the requirements, but nearly impossible for families new to the U.S. education system. 

    Standardized testing is a topic that divides teachers, administrators, government agencies and families and one that is hard for me to keep my opinion to myself.  Lucky for me, ParentMap Magazine just published an excellent article about Washington State standardized testing rules. 

    https://www.parentmap.com/article/washington-state-standardized-testing-rules

    From all my time visiting schools and speaking with parents, I know that many students in the lower elementary school grades opted out of testing last year.  It is only in the extreme cases like with Nathan Hale and Garfield High School that the numbers are released.  It is hard to get a clear picture of families opting out in the elementary years, as the students still attend school to avoid being marked absent, but spend the time in the library or a supervised study period. 

    For families moving from within the United States public school system, the amount of testing in Washington State does not differ dramatically from other States. For families coming to the area from outside of the United States, it can be quite perplexing as it differs dramatically from the graduation and leveling testing requirements in countries such as Britain, Singapore, China, Germany and Australia.   

    I'll do my best to answer your specific questions about testing and graduation requirements - whether you are joining the U.S. school system for a few years and returning to your home country to complete your child's education or if you are planning to have your children graduate from an U.S. high school and apply for university.