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Headlines at Hopkins
News Release

Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160 | Fax (410) 516-5251

July 15, 2003
CONTACT: Amy Cowles
(410) 516-7800

Back-to-School Story Tips from Johns Hopkins
Education Experts

Listed below are back-to-school story ideas from The Johns Hopkins University. To pursue any of these stories, contact Amy Cowles at 410-516-7160 or amycowles@jhu.edu.

Getting a child ready for school begins long before the first day, especially if the child is going to school for the first time or changing schools. If possible, visit the school with your child during the summer, meet the teacher, and even take pictures so your child can look at them and become familiar with the surroundings, advises early childhood specialist and researcher Barbara Wasik. She has a backpack full of suggestions to cut down on first-day jitters for students of all ages. Her advice to parents and other adults: "Everybody's nervous; don't show it." Contact Wasik at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University at 410-516-8815 or bwasik@csos.jhu.edu.

The Head Start program is facing changes proposed by the Bush administration. Among the proposed changes: an extensive "accountability program" that calls for every child to be tested this school year; higher required qualifications for Head Start teachers, without money to provide the training or compensate those with college degrees; and demands that youngsters spend more time on academics to close the achievement gap. Also proposed is a new process for delivering federal funds through state block grants rather than direct payments to the centers, as has been the case since Head Start's beginning in the 1960s. Barbara Wasik works with more than two dozen Head Start centers in Baltimore City through her literacy readiness program. "People are very, very concerned," Wasik says of Head Start administrators, teachers and parents. Wasik can be reached at the Center for Social Organization of Schools, 410-516-8815, bwasik@csos.jhu.edu.

In the weeks before school starts, television and radio commercials and magazine and newspaper ads flood the public with images of smiling students in new clothes, carrying new books in clean backpacks, altogether ready and eager to learn. But a more realistic picture of the back-to-school period would show some children and teenagers who are not eager to return to the classroom. Some of them may be repeating a grade; some may be returning after numerous suspensions, wondering what has changed this year. Others are ill-equipped to succeed due to academic, economic, social and behavioral shortcomings. It may be only a matter of time before some or all of these students drop out. Being able to identify these reluctant students and offering them appropriate help and support are essential to keeping them in school. Toks Fashola of the Johns Hopkins Center for Social Organization of Schools is studying effective dropout prevention programs across the country. She is interested in reluctant students and can offer strategies for helping such students begin this school year on a better footing. Contact Fashola at 410-516-8849 or tfashola@csos.jhu.edu.

With the new demands of the No Child Left Behind Act and federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers in many public schools, today's after-school programs emphasize academics rather than simply providing a safe haven for latch-key kids. But if the programs aren't mandatory, many children don't attend. Toks Fashola, author of Building Effective Afterschool Programs (Corwin Press, 2001), suggests approaching students with a willingness to help and a sincere interest in their ideas about what they need and like in after-school programs. "Otherwise, we may offer after-school programs,... but they will have low attendance, low enthusiasm and no results." Fashola is available at 410-516-8849 or at tfashola@csos.jhu.edu.

Joyce Epstein, director of the Center for School, Family and Community Partnerships, studies how schools can strengthen family and community involvement and is developing new ways for parents and educators to work together to plan partnership programs. Homework is part of good partnerships, Epstein says. She studies when homework is and isn't effective and is creating ways for teachers to design better homework assignments. She can provide tips to help parents work with schools and help their kids. See www.partnershipschools.org. Contact Amy Cowles at 410-516-7160 or amycowles@jhu.edu.

Can a stock market education program change the way underperforming middle school students think not only about Wall Street, but also about school? A program called Stocks in the Future rewards improved attendance and academic performance by giving middle schoolers the opportunity to purchase shares of kid-friendly stocks that can be redeemed upon graduating from high school. Early evaluations by researchers at the Center for Social Organization of Schools indicate that the pilot program -- currently in seven Maryland schools -- can improve attendance and achievement in reading and math. See www.stocksinthefuture.org. Contact Amy Cowles at 410-516-7160 or amycowles@jhu.edu.

Lea Ybarra can speak to reporters about the need to nurture advanced learners, including those from underrepresented minorities, so they can reach their full academic promise. She is the executive director of the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins, which conducts the nation's oldest and most extensive academic talent search and offers educational programming for students with exceptionally high academic ability. "Our country must ensure academic success in extremely bright young minds -- no matter where they live or what their families earn," Ybarra says. See www.cty.jhu.edu/. Contact Amy Cowles at 410-516-7160 or amycowles@jhu.edu.

Fixing low-performing schools is perhaps our nation's greatest challenge, according to Johns Hopkins researchers Douglas Mac Iver, Allen Ruby, Robert Balfanz and Vaughan Byrnes. Their research is aimed at finding a successful and sustainable fix. The group recently published a four-year study of a Philadelphia school that was targeted for possible reconstitution, but changed its fate using Johns Hopkins' Talent Development Middle School model designed for high-poverty middle schools. See www.csos.jhu.edu/tdms/index.htm. Contact Amy Cowles at 410-516-7160 or amycowles@jhu.edu.

The proper way to address an adult. Respecting peers' personal space. Learning at an early age that kindness begets kindness. From a firm handshake to knowing to speak softly when walking down a hallway when class is in session, civility expert P.M. Forni can discuss how children of all ages should learn to treat each other with respect. He can help them feel more comfortable in social situations by providing guidance in common sense manners. He is the author of Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct. See www.jhu.edu/civility/. Contact Amy Cowles at 410-516-7160 or amycowles@jhu.edu.

Students entering their junior and senior years of high school this fall will soon be making big decisions about higher education. William Conley, dean of enrollment and academic services at Johns Hopkins, can provide insight into the nuances of the college application process, such as essay-writing tips, a college admissions check-list for home school students, and the pros and cons of applying through an early decision program. Contact Amy Cowles at 410-516-7160 or amycowles@jhu.edu.

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