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Archive for August, 2007

TEENS: College rankings

College campus Are the U.S. News and World Report’s much vaunted college rankings skewed and distorted? Lloyd Thacker, director of the Education Conservancy, says yes — and 60 major college presidents agree. Times reporter Matt Krupnick has the story on page one today. Read it, then tell us what you think about college apps mania.

P.S. If you’re interested in this topic, you may be interested in this aPARENTly Speaking blog post too: 4,000 Colleges Other Than Harvard.
Jackie Burrell

Posted on Friday, August 17th, 2007
Under: Teens | No Comments »

MISS SCHOOL MANNERS: New teen drivers

teacher Dear Miss School Manners:
When I was a kid, drivers ed was all done through the high schools. Not anymore. We managed to figure out how to get our 15-and-a-half year old son Fortescue (ok, not his real name) enrolled in an online drivers education class. But now we’re trying to get his driver’s permit and the DMV says we need to enroll him in a behind-the-wheel class first. I feel funny using the Yellow Pages to choose a school for something possibly life-threatening.
Signed, Worried in Walnut Creek

Dear Worried, No honey, you use Google. :-) OK, first we’ll talk about the best way to find a driving school you’re comfortable with, then a couple of caveats about scheduling and finally a word about the DMV and how not to get there and discover you’re missing critical paperwork… like us…

(Read more after the jump. Or write to Miss School Manners now.)

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Posted on Friday, August 17th, 2007
Under: Miss School Manners, Teens | No Comments »

SCHOOL: 2007 Test Scores

Toy school bus The latest school test scores are out, according to this morning’s Times story by reporter Shirley Dang, and it looks like gains have come to a virtual standstill. This is the first in what will be a series of different reports based on the same school data for months to come. Education reporters joke that it’s because state superintendent Jack O’Connell loves the limelight, but really, it’s all about number crunching.

The first go-round is the basic data on how many students scored at grade level (proficient or above) in English and math. Then in a few weeks, you’ll see the Academic Performance Index (API) scores, which use test data to determine a ranking between 200 and 1,000 — 800 is the magic number everyone’s aiming for. Then, a few months later, the AYPs come out — these are the numbers used to determine if a school has passed its No Child Left Behind goals. So, get the big picture look from Shirley’s story, then visit the state’s test score database to see how your school did. Pick “school” from the first menu, “STAR” from the second, under test scores, and submit. It will prompt you for the school name, then give you more information than you ever thought you needed…
Jackie Burrell

Posted on Thursday, August 16th, 2007
Under: Schools | No Comments »

Project Ready to Learn – We need backpacks!

Colored pencilsProject Ready to Learn ends this Friday, so we’re getting ready for the final push, and what we need most of all are backpacks. Readers have been incredibly generous in donating school supplies – keep ‘em coming! – but we could use more cool backpacks to put them in. For a list of drop-off spots, read on…

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Posted on Wednesday, August 15th, 2007
Under: Schools | No Comments »

FAB FIVE: Family Field Trips

Car kids Looking for fun and frolic this weekend? The Times’ weekly “Taking the Kids” column is on vacation this week. So here are five fab end-of-summer family outings, culled from the Summer 2007 archives and our own family to-do lists.

1) Willy Wonka‘s in Walnut Creek this Saturday at “Movies Under the Stars” (And Charlotte and Wilbur show up Sept. 8)

2) Check out clown noses, tightropes and “Circus Science” at Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley (now through Sept. 2)

3) Watch puppets at Children’s Fairyland, Oakland (open year round)

4) See cartoon workshops at the Manga Exhibit at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (through Sept. 9)

5) Find big rides for small fry at Small World Park, Pittsburg (now through Oct. 27)

Posted on Wednesday, August 15th, 2007
Under: Fab Five, Family Outings | No Comments »

PREGNANCY: Eat for 2?

Stork Are you pregnant or thinking about it? Then you’ll want to read this morning’s Associated Press story on the old “eat for two” bromide. Doctors say that’s a recipe for obesity. Consume 300 extra calories a day and gain no more than 35 pounds.
How much weight did you gain when you had your last baby? And how long did it take you to lose the excess poundage?
- Jackie Burrell

Posted on Wednesday, August 15th, 2007
Under: Babies & Tots | No Comments »

Photos of your pregnant belly

At the risk of looking like a weirdo — I really should be asking one of our women bloggers to do this post — here’s a link to our Family photoblog, where you can post images of your pregnant bellies.

We’re soliciting these photos in conjunction with our publication today of this story by Candace Murphy:

Swell bellies: Proud moms-to-be put ‘the baby bump’ up front

… once the baby bump was a thing to be hidden beneath draperylike maternity clothing, the burgeoning belly of the pregnant woman has taken a 180-degree turn in the public eye.

Today, the baby belly is celebrated, shown off, and in the case of celebrity bellies, stalked. And these bellies are everywhere: They’re popping out of tight-fitting maternity fashions. They’re glistening in semi-nude family photographs that can be taken at the corner mall…

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Posted on Wednesday, August 15th, 2007
Under: Babies & Tots | No Comments »

FAMILY: Are toys safe?

toy recall2In the wake of yet another toy recall, how is it possible to know for sure if your child’s toys are safe? Tuesday, Mattel recalled 9 million Chinese-made toys, ranging from Polly Pockets to Batman action figures, because they contain choking-hazardous tiny magnets or possible lead paint. Mattel also warned that further recalls could follow as the company conducts more rigorous testing. (For more on the recall and a complete list of products affected, visit Mattel’s consumer recall site or read news coverage here.)

Toy recalls have become epidemic this summer, as companies have found excessive levels of lead in paint used in many Chinese-made products. Earlier this month, Fisher-Price pulled 1.5 million toys. Thomas the Tank Engine toys were part of a recall in June. Yet, despite this scary reality, there are steps you can take to protect your children.

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Posted on Tuesday, August 14th, 2007
Under: Toy Recalls | 2 Comments »

MISS SCHOOL MANNERS: Free Lunch?

teacher Dear Miss School Manners:
My daughter is going into third grade. Last year, one of her classmates frequently came to school without a lunch or money to buy one. I started packing some extra food for my daughter to give her, but I seem to recall someone saying there is a free lunch program for children in need. Do I talk with the teacher or principal? Having met this classmate’s mom, I don’t think she’d be receptive to “charity” but her daughter’s well-being is important. What can I do to help? Signed, Concerned Mom in Antioch

Dear Concerned Mom: What a wonderful parent you are, and what a fantastic lesson in compassion for your daughter! Yes, there is indeed a free/reduced price school meal program – milk, breakfast and lunch – that serves children in need…

(Read more after the jump. Or write to Miss School Manners now.)

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Posted on Tuesday, August 14th, 2007
Under: Kids & Tweens, Miss School Manners, Teens | No Comments »

Fab Five: Finding textbooks for cheap

MBRIf you thought tuition and room and board would send you to the poorhouse, check out receipts for college textbooks. According to The College Board, students will spend an average of $940 a year on textbooks and supplies. The high expense is driving more parents and students to online book sellers, where they can buy used books, and sometimes even new ones, for less.

Buyers can search by title, author, keyword or ISBN (International Standard Book Number). The latter is the 10-digit number located atop the bar code on the back cover. Searching by ISBN offers some safeguards against buying the wrong book, especially because editions change frequently, so use it if your class book list or professor provides the number.

Here are what five popular sites have to offer. We also compare the cost (which includes shipping & handling) at each site for a sample used textbook, “Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach” by David H. Barlow (ISBN 0534633625), which has a retail price of $140.95

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Posted on Monday, August 13th, 2007
Under: College Apps & Angst, Fab Five | No Comments »