KQED News Fix: From Fields to Code, College Program Helps Farmworkers Make the Leap

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alonzoStory: Ana Tintocalis

Photo and Video: Jeremy Raff

Rogelio Mendoza mows the front lawn outside his family’s modest home in Salinas. It’s a warm weekday evening, and his wife, Norma, is cooking dinner for their three boys.

“Carne, beans and some posole … that’s what’s we’re having today,” says Norma as she serves her oldest son, Alonso, who just came home from a long day of classes at Hartnell Community College in Salinas.

The-21-year-old is the first in the family to attend college.

Alonso says some days he feels like “his head is going to explode” with so much new information. But he admits that schoolwork is much better than farmwork.

“Having your back hurt, and your arms hurt … you can’t compare that kind of tired to having your mind stress over homework,” Alonso says.

The Mendoza family is a farmworker family.

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Mind Shift: Strategies to Reach Every Student, Regardless of Language Barrier

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mindshiftStory: Katrina Schwartz

Photo: DFAT Photo Library

Helping every student experience meaningful, deep learning is a constant challenge, in no small part because no two learners are alike. To reach students who are particularly challenged — whether because of their ability to speak English or some other reason — educators can find a way in by tapping into students’ interests and passion.

“You don’t have to know how to read and write to think deeply,” said Claire Sylvan, founding executive director of The Internationals Network For Public Schools, schools that serve high school students who have been in the country fewer than four years. Sylvan spoke on a Deeper Learning MOOC panel focused on strategies for helping even the most challenged learners to engage in meaningful work.

Every student at an Internationals school is an English Language Learner, but not all have a common mother tongue. Internationals schools give students projects that involve complex thinking in both English and native languages. “Provide them with on-ramps that allow them to develop literacy in the environment that they now inhabit,” Sylvan said. There’s often a myth that students need to learn English before they can participate in more interesting work, but the Internationals Network has built an entire model on engaging students in learning through work that interests them, giving them a compelling reason to learn English.

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Mind Shift: What Keeps Students Motivated to Learn?

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Story by Katrina Schwartz

Photo by Erin Scott

erinscott_-7080Educators have lots of ideas about how to improve education, to better reach learners and to give students the skills they’ll need in college and beyond the classroom. But often those conversations remain between adults. The real test of any idea is in the classroom, though students are rarely asked about what they think about their education.

A panel of seven students attending schools that are part of the “deeper learning” movement gave their perspective on what it means for them to learn and how educators can work to create a school culture that fosters creativity, collaboration, trust, the ability to fail, and perhaps most importantly, one in which students want to participate.


Project-based learning is the norm among these students, but they also have a lot of ideas about what makes a good project work. Students want projects to be integrated across subjects, not separated by discipline. “When it’s integrated, each student can find something they like and everyone can get into it,” said Erina Chavez, a junior at High Tech High North County. “I love when projects are integrated so you can find so many different aspects,” said Daniel Cohen, also a North County junior.

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NPR: What The U.S. Can Learn From Finland, Where School Starts At Age 7

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Story by Claudio Sanchez

preschoolFinland, a country the size of Minnesota, beats the U.S. in math, reading and science, even though Finnish children don't start school until age 7.

Despite the late start, the vast majority arrive with solid reading and math skills. By age 15, Finnish students outperform all but a few countries on international assessments.

Krista Kiuru, Finland's minister of education and science who met with education officials in Washington recently, chalks success up to what she calls the "Finnish way." Every child in Finland under age 7 has the right to child care and preschool by law, regardless of family income. Over 97 percent of 3- to 6-year-olds attend a program of one type or another. But, says Kiuru, the key to Finland's universal preschool system is quality.

"First of all, it's about having high-quality teachers," Kiuru says. "Day care teachers are having Bachelor degrees. So we trust our teachers, and that's very, very important. And the third factor: we have strong values in the political level."

Political consensus and support help, Kiuru says.

Author Amanda Ripley says she didn't really believe it, so she went to Finland and several other top-performing countries to see for herself. She wrote The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. Compared to Singapore, South Korea or Japan, she says, Finland's approach is pretty laid back, even though its standards — like what preschoolers should know and be able to do — are set by Finland's National Curriculum Guidelines for early childcare.

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Mind Shift: Why It’s Important to Talk Math With Kids

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mathteachingDo you speak math with your kids?

Many of us feel completely comfortable talking about letters, words and sentences with our children—reading to them at night, helping them decode their own books, noting messages on street signs and billboards.

But speaking to them about numbers, fractions, and decimals? Not so much. And yet studies show that “number talk” at home is a key predictor of young children’s achievement in math once they get to school. Now a new study provides evidence that gender is part of the equation: Parents speak to their daughters about numbers far less than their sons.

The report, published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, drew on a collection of recordings of mothers talking to their toddlers, aged 20 to 27 months. Alicia Chang, a researcher at
the University of Delaware, and two coauthors determined that mothers spoke to boys about number concepts twice as often as they spoke to girls. Children this age are rapidly building their vocabularies, Chang notes, and helping them become familiar with number words can
promote their interest in math later on.

That was made clear in another study, published in Developmental Psychology in 2010, which also used recordings of parents talking to their children to gauge how often number words were used (the kids in this study were between the ages of 14 and 30 months). Psychologist Susan Levine of the University of Chicago and her coauthors found huge variation among the families studied: Some children were hearing their parents speak only about two dozen number words a week, while others were hearing such words about 1,800 times weekly.

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Video: OMCA: We Dream in Art

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Mind Shift: Teaching in the New (Abundant) Economy of Information

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Story by Shawn McCusker

kqedteachingIn the past 10 years, perhaps nothing has changed more than the relationship between teachers and the information being distributed in their classrooms. Historically, the role of teacher has always been that of gatekeeper and distributor of the course canon. Information was dispensed. Students were encouraged to arrive at their own conclusions and interpret information, but they were limited by the fact that they were operating in a scarce economy of information (teacher, textbook and a limited number of outside sources). For the most part, the teacher was the sole provider of content, and though many teachers worked to provide quality materials and move away from a lecture-based curriculum, even these provided resources were no less teacher directed.

With the proliferation of mobile technology, our ability to access information has increased, dramatically changing the practice of teaching. Comparing the two scenarios, the circumstances couldn’t be more different.

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NPR: Fed Up With Zero Tolerance In Schools, Advocates Push For Change

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Story by Laura Isensee

Photo Credit: KUHF

stephen-f-austin-middle-In 2010, De'angelo Rollins got into a fight with a bully at his new middle school in Bryan, Texas. His mother, Marjorie Rollins Holman, says her shy son reported the bullying, but the teacher didn't stop it.

Then it came to blows.

"The boy ended up hitting my son in the face first," Holman says. "My son hit him back, and they got in a little scuffle."

That scuffle landed her then-12-year-old son in the principal's office — and in adult criminal court after the school police officer wrote the sixth-grader a ticket.

"We end up paying for everything for our son and made sure he did everything the judge had passed down to him. But we were outraged," Holman says. "We couldn't believe that this was happening."

Since the mid-1990s, schools have increasingly disciplined students with harsh tactics like suspensions and, in some cases, the criminal courts. Now, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction — even in Texas, one of the most aggressive states in criminalizing students' misbehavior.

SF Gate: June Jordan School for Equity gets a break on testing

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Story by Jill Tucker

Photos by Mike Kepka

Mike KapkaNormally at this time of year, teachers and administrators at San Francisco's June Jordan School for Equity would be starting to gear up for the standardized tests given to students early in the spring.

And the educators would be hoping that this time, unlike in years past, the school's abysmal scores would really go up. But that won't happen.

This year, the Excelsior neighborhood high school will get a welcome reprieve from the predictable cycle of testing.

It's a practice year for California schools as the state transitions to a new computerized testing system based on the new Common Core curriculum adopted by most states. While students will take the new tests, the scores won't count or even be reported to parents or the public.

For June Jordan, it wipes an ugly test-score slate clean and offers a shot at redemption.

District officials had high hopes for June Jordan.

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Oakland Local: Parents, students give their say in school budgeting

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Oakland Local
Story by Barbara Grady
March 2, 2014


The first test of Oakland Unified School District’s ability to include parents and students in making budget decisions — something now required by state law — happened Wednesday night when about 100 people asked the school board to let schools, rather than the central administration, decide how to spend a pot of money.

The students and parents won.

At issue was $1.5 million — a paltry sum within an overall $589 million budget for the district — but it was the subject of great debate, because the Board of Education had decided last June to gives schools this money, and $3 million more, to spend as they see fit, but then faced increased expenses, so considered rescinding that decision.

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