Monday, October 6, 2014

Goodbye NNAT, Hello CogAT!

Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about HISD requirements to qualify your child for gifted and talented programs...
...they change the tests!

The CogAT (Cognitive Abilities Test) will now replace the NNAT (Naglieri) and later this spring, the IOWA will replace the Stanford. No need to panic, however! Raising the Bar has you covered! Want to know more? Read on. . .

Goodbye NNAT, Hello CogAT

SAT, STAAR, AP, IB, PTO. . . the world of education is filled with some fairly familiar acronyms. One acronym, however, may not be so familiar: CogAT. It stands for Cognitive Abilities Test, a test that might play an important role in your student's academic life, especially if your child attends an HISD school. Let us help break down the basics of the CogAT.

In a nutshell, what is the CogAT?

The CogAT is a test commonly used for identification of students for Gifted and Talented programs and is a grade-level specific assessment of verbal, quantitative, and spatial reasoning and problem-solving ability.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Organizational Tutoring: A Sound Investment in Your Student's Future by Mikey Smith, M.Ed

Organizational Tutoring:
A Sound Investment in Your Student's Future
by Mikey Smith, M.Ed

"So, how was school today?" Remember when your student was younger, and he or she would respond to this question with breathless excitement, regaling you with every detail of every day, from who got in trouble (never your child, of course!) to what was for lunch? Even if your student skipped important details like spelling tests or field trip forms, you more than likely had a backup - the weekly homework folder and/or the trusty planner. Early elementary teachers spend great amounts of time writing copious notes in students' planners, stuffing homework folders, and making sure students remember assignments and events.

Ask the parents of an older student about what sort of response they typically get when asking their child about their school day, and you most likely will get an answer along the lines of, "I have no idea - they don't ever tell me anything about it!" Couple this with the shift in responsibility for remembering homework and assignments and copying information into a student planner from teacher to student, and you might have a recipe for disaster.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks

Old Tricks for New Dogs?
Teaching 21st Century Students 20th, 19th, and 18th Century Skills

by Mikey Smith, M.Ed

A major catchphrase in education today is the term "Twenty-First Century Skills." These abilities include skills that will better prepare our students to take on challenges the future holds and include concepts like problem-solving, working collaboratively, integrating technology and media literacy. While no one is saying that these skills are not important and vital to our childrens' futures, what about the skills that are getting left behind? Classes like shop, home economics, keyboarding and the like are nowhere to be found on many school curriculum maps. But just because these skills are no longer being taught in schools does not mean that our students don't need to know them for the future. Here are a few 18th, 19th and 20th century skills that would probably be a good idea for your child to learn.

Budgeting & Banking Basics
Americans are in more debt now than ever, and much of that debt belongs to young people. As a matter of fact, a 2013 Ohio State University study found that young adults are racking up credit card debt at a more rapid rate than other age groups, and that they're slower at paying it off. It is even predicted that many new college graduates and other young adults will NEVER pay off their debts. Many kids and even young adults have no concept of the value of a dollar or how finances work. Why not give your kid insight into how to create a budget, how to save money and how to determine whether or not to make a purchase? Some lessons in fiscal responsibility today might help your child become a wiser consumer and avoid debt later.

Cooking Basics
Many parents cringe at the idea of giving their children sharp objects like knives or access to potentially dangerous appliances like an oven or stove. But there is no reason to think that most kids can't manage to make some basic meals that do not come out of a can or the microwave.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Literacy by Mikey Smith

Summer Literacy
Creative Ways to Keep ALL Kids
Intellectually Engaged this Summer
by Mikey Smith, M.Ed
We have all read the articles and seen the research about so-called "Summer Slide." The message is clear: kids whose brains remain engaged over the summer fare better academically once the new school year rolls around.  Many schools have jumped on board the anti-brain drain bandwagon, sending home packets and packets of worksheets to keep kids busy during summer months. While schools should be applauded for addressing the issue of Summer Slide, not every kid is thrilled to crack open a novel and answer questions or write essays about what they did over the summer.

So what are some fresh ways to keep kids engaged and reading and writing during the summer months? For starters, mother of two Lorien Martinez has a simple but effective suggestion. "My kids have to read 30 minutes a day BEFORE any electronics," she says. Middle school teacher Summer Magee offers a twist on this idea of reading regularly during the summer: having kids take on trilogies and series books with - here's the twist - their parents!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Get off the Couch! Keeping Your Family Healthy During the Summer (and Beyond)

Get off the Couch!
Keeping Your Family Healthy During the Summer (and Beyond)

by Mikey Smith, M.Ed

It used to be that the start of summer meant that our parents would push us kids outside, lock the door and tell us not to come home until dinner unless someone was bleeding profusely. Nowadays, however, more and more kids are spending more and more of their summer sitting on the couch playing video games and watching TV. We all know that kids and adults and people in general are more sedentary. What can we do to reverse that trend in our own homes?

Make it a Family Affair

As with everything, parents can start by being positive examples. It's hard to expect your kids to go outside when you're sitting inside watching TV with a snack in one hand and the remote in the other hand. Go on family hikes or walk the dog together, or even get down and dirty with yardwork. Taking care of chores is a great way to make them go faster as well as to burn calories!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Making Room for Nothing by Lara Krupicka

After the mad dash at the end of the school year we could all use some rest and relaxation.  The relatively calm and stress-free start of the summer is a good time to reflect on ways to downsize your family's jam-packed activity calendar.

Raising the Bar summer programs fit perfectly into a streamlined summer schedule. Our camps don't start until the end of June to give you and your family some much needed downtime. Once July approaches, we have half-day options (as well as full-day) and each of our camps run for only one week to promote engagement and excitement, not exhaustion!

Making Room for Nothing
Scale Back and Enjoy the Downtime!

by Lara Krupicka

Most parents have times where they feel like they have to be in multiple places at one time to manage their children's calendars. But what happens when the imagined need becomes real?

Like a typical mom's, Hillary Homzie's schedule for her family was a house of cards, a careful stacking of one activity on the other. Then one day it came toppling down. A change in plans with a carpool partner, when all three of her kids had somewhere to be, left her scrambling. "I remember dropping off one kid at a swim party and not even being able to have the time to arrange how my fifth-grader got home," she explains. She herself had to get to a doctor's appointment where she was diagnosed with multiple ailments, brought on by stress. It was then she realized something had to change.

Homzie's story may sound extreme, but it's more normal than many realize. According to a research study conducted at the University of Michigan, children experienced a major decrease in time spent in unstructured activities between 1981 and 1997. A followup to that study showed free time activities for kids continued to decrease into 2003. With shrinking amounts of down time, you have a recipe for collapse.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Decisions, Decisions. . . Finding the Perfect Summer Camp for your Child

Decisions, Decisions...
Finding the Perfect Summer Camp for Your Child

by Mikey Smith, M.Ed

As summer camp season approaches, the choices are seemingly endless. There are camps for everything from cooking to karate to quilting and everything in between. But what's the best fit for your child? Sometimes, the obvious choice might not be the best one. Thinking outside the box when making decisions about what camp your child will attend can go a long way toward helping make the most of his summer camp experience.

The Athlete
Sure, there are sports camps for just about every specific sport under the sun, but how many football or soccer or volleyball camps can you go to? Attending the same sports camp year after year can get a little stale. Encourage your budding superstar to branch out with another sport, or a multi-sport themed camp. Help them get and stay fit with a nutrition or yoga class.
Raising the Bar Recommendations: From Fishin' to Football, Karma Kids Yoga, The Great Outdoors, "What's Cookin'?"

Monday, February 17, 2014

Spring Showers Bring. . . Standardized Tests!

Springtime means sunshine, flowers, and. . .standardized tests! Thousands of students (and teachers) across the country will welcome the warmer weather but not the standardized tests that the spring months usually bring. Read on for more information about one of the most commonly administered standardized tests, the Stanford 10.  This test is used in some districts, including HISD, as part of the criteria for Gifted and Talented qualification.

Spring Showers Bring...
Standardized Tests

by Mikey Smith, M.Ed

The unseasonably cold weather most of the country has experienced this winter has most of us hoping for an early spring and the warm weather that comes with it. For students and teachers however, spring is not only the season of sunshine and daffodils, it is the season of standardized tests -- lots and lots of standardized tests. Most accredited schools give at least one form of standardized test per year, but it is not uncommon for students to take two.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Spring Cleaning in January? By Mikey Smith, M. Ed.

Spring Cleaning in January?
Preparing for a Successful Second Semester
by Mikey Smith, M. Ed

Remember August? Sparkling school supplies sat waiting to be used by students who sat down at the same time, in the same place each afternoon to diligently work on the evening's homework before laying out clothes and supplies to be taken to school the following day. As the school year wore on, however, these routines seemed to fade away, (or never got adopted in the first place) making each day a stressful blur. January is the perfect time to get back into great habits or to start some new ones. Here are some suggestions:  

--Clean out your student's backpack, lunchbox, binders and folders. By December many students' backpacks are as big as they are, usually packed to bursting with a bunch of outdated and unnecessary worksheets, notices and papers, not to mention piles of candy wrappers and a few wads of gum. Take no prisoners! Dump everything out. If your student doesn't know for sure whether to keep or dump something, to be on the safe side, put it into an appropriately-sized storage tub so that it can be found if need be. Don't recycle or trash anything unless you are 101% sure it will never be needed again.

--Check schedules - some schools change electives or other classes at mid-term. . . and some parents never find out until the end of the year! Make sure you know what classes your child is taking and have teacher contact info for all teachers.

--Re-stock your school supplies. You started the school year with a selection of supplies that would make Office Depot jealous, but now you're down to a few pencil nubs with no erasers and a bottle of crusty White-Out.  While most stores don't have huge school supply sales in January like they do in August, Dollar Stores almost ALWAYS have basics like pens, pencils, folders and notebooks for rock bottom prices.