Sunday, September 30, 2007

Farewell to Jennifer O'Connor

Although farewells are a part of military life, it is never easy. Saying goodbye to our head AVID tutor, Jennifer O'Connor, this month was not easy for any of us in AVID. She has been the driving force of the tutorial component at Sigonella for two years.

Mrs. O'Connor spearheaded the Planter Project, an all-AVID community service project that involved cleaning, trimming and beautifying the planters in front of the NEX a year and a half ago. She organized the entire day: assigning students and parents to teams, securing funding, buying supplies, getting lunches provided, coordinating the pickup of dozens of trash bags of clippings, and getting a story in the paper and on AFN. It was HUGE effort and a HUGE success!

Every school day, Mrs. O'Connor was there to work with students and teachers in both curriculum and tutorials. She graded hundreds of binders, stamped hundreds of agendas, collected data for recruitment, interviewed students, attended and worked at Family Workshops, got new students up to speed, said farewell to departing students and tutors, recruited and trained new tutors, lobbied for AVID in the community, built the AVID Certification Binder, had her own father come in as a guest speaker, and much, much more--all with a cheerful disposition and a smiling face! Mrs. O'Connor was the one who mentored, encouraged, pushed, prodded, listened, patted on the back, and led by example. She touched the lives of all the AVID students in ways only they know and realize. She will be sorely missed as she and her family begin a new phase of their lives in Virginia.

Because of her experience in AVID, Mrs. O'Connor is moving toward getting certification to teach herself. We think that is a GREAT idea!

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AVID Helping with SAT Prep

By Will Morris, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Wednesday, September 26, 2007

One of the most dreaded parts of the college application process for many students is taking the SATs.

A student’s SAT score, along with his or her grade-point average, are considered by college admissions officers to be the best predictor of academic success at the university level.

AVID instructors try to mediate students’ fears by exposing them to the SAT pretest, or PSAT, as early as middle school. Nevertheless, SAT scores fell in 2007 among students in Department of Defense Education Activity schools.

Students in DODDS-Pacific scored slightly better than seniors nationwide in the SAT’s critical reading portions, but scored lower than the national average in math and writing, according to exam figures released earlier this month.

In South Korea, Okinawa, Japan and Guam, more than 650 students averaged 504 in critical reading, 502 in math and 485 in writing.

Last week, in an interview, Pacific AVID coordinator Melanie Bales said the test has changed and requires students to spend more time preparing for it than in the past.

She added that AVID students receive special attention in critical reading and writing, two skills essential for taking the test. They are also quizzed extensively and taught test-taking strategies.

--Will Morris

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

DODDS looking to give students AVID study habits

By Will Morris, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Wednesday, September 26, 2007

TORII STATION, Okinawa--"One world, one binder."

One of the first lessons AVID teacher Brian Swenty tries to instill in his students at Osan Air Base, South Korea, is about organization.

"Many of our kids experience immediate success just by getting organized," Swenty, 32, said of his Advancement Via Individual Determination class, an elective offered in DODDS middle and high schools.

The program is designed to help "middle performing" students develop the academic skills and personal character needed to be successful in the grades they are in and prepare them for the next academic step to come, including college.

Swenty was one of 35 AVID teachers who gathered last week at the headquarters of Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific on Okinawa.

By all accounts, the program is successful.

Melanie Bales, 47, the Pacific AVID coordinator, said that when compared to their counterparts, a greater percentage of AVID students go to college and graduate.

Bales said about 10 percent of DODDS middle and high school students are enrolled in the program. Children either are recruited into the program, or are admitted after testing.

Ed Fielder, 56, a middle school teacher at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, said students in the program must agree to a set of terms, including taking rigorous classes. All the requirements are laid out and students must sign a contract agreeing to meet them.

Fielder said a large part of the program has to do with raising the expectations that the students have of themselves, and the second part of the program is helping them meet those expectations.

"We motivate them, and then we monitor them," Fielder said.

AVID teachers said they try to develop the academic infrastructure students need to be successful. Students are taught organizational skills, time management, the process of writing and Cornell Note Taking, designed to help students memorize course work and analyze it.

Along with academic skills, the teachers said, they help students develop aspects of their character that are essential to academic success, such as team-building and social skills, and personal responsibility.

Thelberstine Buford, 46, a teacher at Daegu American School in South Korea, echoed Swenty’s thoughts that organization is the key to academic success.

Successfully maintaining "The Binder," as it is called, is worth 50 percent of her students’ grades, she said. All the work that students do for class, including notes and homework, is required to be in the notebook.

A large part of classwork for AVID students is getting them ready to apply to college and be successful there. Students study for entrance exams, learn about financial aid and even go on field trips to colleges and universities in the States.

"We spend a lot of time just getting them used to the culture of college," said Swenty.

The program isn’t without its challenges, however. Swenty, Fielder and Buford agreed that the program has a high turnover rate because military children tend to move around a lot.

"In a stateside school, if [a student] gets in AVID in the seventh grade, they’re going to stay in for six years," Bales said, adding that many AVID students in DODDS stay in the program for only two or three years before they move back to the States.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

First Family Workshop Fast Approaching!!

The first AVID Family Workshops of the new school year will be held on Tuesday, October 2, at 17:00 in the meeting room above Applebee's.

Highlights of the workshop will be the AVID Contract Signing by all new AVID students and their parents, "Our Family's College Tour" by the Rodriguez and Lara families, an introduction of the ASACS program by Kaarin Coe, and an overview of the upcoming year in AVID.

Put it on your calendar now!!

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AVID Program Growth in 27 Years

Beginning with one high school and 32 students in 1980, AVID now serves nearly 300,000 students in over 3,500 elementary and secondary schools in 45 states and in the District of Columbia across 15 countries.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Sigonella SAT Scores Among Highest in Europe

A story in Stars and Stripes on September 14, 2007, listing SAT scores for all thirty-two DoDDS-Europe schools showed Sigonella near the top in all three categories: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing.

Sigonella students scored 4th overall in Critical Reading, beat out only by two schools that are made up primarily of international students (Ankara and Brussels) and one other small DoDDS school (Lajes in the Azores).

On the Math portion, Sigonella ranked 5th out of thirty-two, and 6th in Writing.

A perfect score on each section of the test is 800. Here's how Sigonella students stacked up:

Critical Reading: 548 (National average 502, DoDDS-Europe average 521)

Math: 525 (National average 515, DoDDS-E average 504)

Writing: 518 (National average 494, DoDDS-E average 505)

Performance on the SAT is considered to be one of the top three requirements for college admission. Students, parents, and staff should all be very proud of the SAT performance of our students!

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AVID about Fall Athletics!

Quite a number of AVID students are representing Sigonella this fall on the school athletic teams. I, for one, believe strongly in the value of participation in sports. It teaches many skills and values that aren't always part of the regular curriculum. It builds healthy bodies and minds and teaches the concepts of team, discipline, and leadership. It also looks good on college applications!

Here are our AVID high school students in sports:

Boys Volleyball: Kevin R, Camron S, Tim F, Patrick B, and Kris R.

Girls Volleyball: Mia S

Cross Country: Denise P, Jennifer P, and Patrick F

Football: Marco M, Torey D, Nico R, Adam B, and Taylor R

Tennis: Miguel D

All of the above sports opened last weekend (September 15) AWAY at various locations in Italy and Germany. Best performance of all was by Jen P, who finished in FIRST place in girls' cross country!Good luck to all this season! Bring home the gold!

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Mister Wizard" Visits AVID Classes

Our first guest speaker in AVID this year demonstrated how you can walk though paper. More importantly, though, he showed students that you can combine the things you love with your education to find a fun and interesting job. Rob Vary, brother of our own AVID tutor Kathy Vary, spoke to four AVID classes this week while visiting Sicily.

Rob grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania just a few years ago. He earned his bachelor's degree in physics, but he spent much of his free time in the field of drama. "I acted in just about every production the college performed," he told students.

He also began to work at the college's planetarium, and eventually developed a program to showcase it to people outside the science department.

All of that has led him to his current job with the Maryland Science Center in their outreach program. He works with a team to produce and deliver shows about science to schools and libraries. Their "big shows" are for audiences up to 250 students, while "small shows" are for classroom-size audiences. "Our goal is to get kids of all ages really excited about science," he said. They do that with everything from explosions to simple demonstrations for students from kindergarten up to seniors in high school.

Rob demonstrated one act from a show he does called "Mindbenders." Using a class member, he taught/reviewed the scientific method and showed how you can "walk through paper."

Students had opportunities, as always with guest speakers, to ask questions afterwards. We all greatly enjoyed Rob Vary's visit and thank him for using some of his vacation time to talk to us!

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Master's Degrees More Popular Than Ever

An article in the September 12, 2007, edition of the New York Times entitled "Master’s Degrees Abound as Universities and Students See a Windfall" by Hannah Fairfield says that the number of students earing master's degrees in the United States "has nearly doubled since 1980. Since 1970, the growth is 150 percent, more than twice as fast as bachelor and doctorate programs."

Students and universities alike see the master's programs as "targets of opportunity," according to George L. Mehaffy, a vice president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Even though the degrees are often expensive and scholarships and fellowships are rare, many say "the price is worth it."

". . . In his two-year master’s program in science technology and environmental policy from the University of Minnesota Craig Nelson had $35,000 in loans. Now, he works in regulatory affairs at the 3M Company.

“'Without the degree, I wouldn’t have the job,' he said. 'So even though I’ll be paying the loan for 10 years, it was a good move for me.' "

Some universities are also "luring master’s students into staying for multiple years by offering dual-degree programs: two master’s degrees at twice the cost. Some programs join international affairs and journalism, science and public policy, business and education. Other schools extend programs; for example, the University of Wisconsin’s two-year master’s degree in anthropology can be lengthened to three years if students want to add a museum studies concentration.

"Rey A. Phillips Santos has three graduate degrees gracing his résumé: two master’s and one in law. After completing the master’s of arts program in the social sciences from the University of Chicago, he decided to go on to the Chicago-Kent College of Law, in a joint-degree program in environmental management with the Stuart Graduate School of Business.

“'There is a huge demand for credentials in high-level jobs now,' said Mr. Phillips, who is a lawyer for the Chicago city government. 'Each of my degrees helped me to get a leg up in the job market, and earn higher salaries than I would have otherwise. They were great investments.'”

Universities are also benefitting from the surge in demand for master's degrees. They can charge higher tuition because the students are often already in the working market and will get even high salaries because of the degrees. They are willing to take out the loans as investments in their future. Universities do not have to provide housing for these students and, as stated earlier, there is not much financial aid involved.

To read the whole article, follow the link at the top of this posting.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Best 366 Colleges from Princeton Review

From The Princeton Review August 2007 Newsletter

The Rankings Have Arrived!

Find out which colleges have the happiest students, provide the most palatial dorms, and serve up the tastiest food. Current students tell all about the best (and worst) of college at the Best 366 Colleges across the nation.
See the complete list of rankings. Categories within include Academics, Demographics, Parties, Schools by Type, Politics, Quality of Life, Extracurricular, and Social. You can also search by school and find out what lists, if any, they are on.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Not AVID---

Zach B (7th grade AVID) recently wrote this tongue-in-cheek description of an AVID student:

"Opposite of DIVA"



Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Colleges Tack on Student Fees

Excerpt from article in the New York Times by JONATHAN D. GLATER
Published: September 4, 2007

"College administrators say public universities are increasingly tacking on fees for the same reasons that some are experimenting with differential tuition for different majors: state support for higher education has languished, and legislatures shy away from approving tuition increases. Fees can often be set by individual campuses.

"At just over half the nation’s four-year public colleges, fees rose faster than tuition in the 2005-6 school year and the previous year, according to the College Board, which tracks trends in college costs. Over all, in 2005-6 — the most current year for which there is available data — fees rose by an average of 8 percent to 11 percent at public four-year institutions, well above the rate of inflation.

"These days there may be a fee for every imaginable service. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga this fall is collecting a new $25 health fee. Montana State University Billings for the first time is charging a $10 library fee. The University of North Dakota has imposed a $37 per semester fee to pay for pulling its whole athletic program into Division I. And students at Arizona State University face a new $25 technology fee. . . . "

"Private colleges have fees too but educators say that usually they are dwarfed by tuition, which can be set without seeking approval from lawmakers or any other outsiders. George Washington University became the first college to break the $50,000 mark when it approved for the class of 2011 tuition of $39,210, a food allowance of $3,400 and housing prices of $8,500.

"Public colleges cost far less but the imbalance between fees and tuition can be hefty. In Massachusetts tuition at public universities has not risen in six years. But students are swamped in fees. The University of Massachusetts Amherst charges a service fee, a health fee, an activities fee and a curriculum fee, which together add up to about $4,100, or nearly five times the tuition of $857 per semester. "


Monday, September 03, 2007

What are the Latest College Trends?

"More students are applying to college than ever before. Even with the increased competition, most who apply to four-year colleges are admitted."

By Marian Wilde, GreatSchools Senior Writer

"Let's start with the good news: the odds for admission into a four-year college or university are good--seven out of every 10 seniors who apply get in, according to a recent report.

And the bad news? The competition to get into selective colleges is more intense than ever before.

"In its annual report on the state of college admissions, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) has identified several reasons for the recent increase in college applications, and consequently tougher competition to get into "brand name" colleges. Two of the biggest reasons are:

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Welcome Back to School!

The Sigonella MS/HS AVID program welcomed back close to fifty students in grades 7-12 last week. There are a record five sections of AVID, three taught by Ms. Pienta, and one each by Ms. Sibayan and Ms. Novak. Every student showed up at school with a binder ready to learn.

Students have already set goals for the first quarter, learned about SLANT (sit up, lean forward, ask questions, nod your head, and talk to the teacher), reviewed Cornell notes, set a date for the first binder check (Sept. 17-18), wrote assignments in their new agendas every day, and practiced the Three-Story Intellect questions.

There are five seniors in AVID this year, and they have begun special assignments related to their college applications.

All AVID students 8-11 will take the PSAT in October. The next few weeks will be spent preparing students for that as well as the SAT for seniors. Ms. Pienta's classes have taken on an "SAT Question of the Day" from the Internet to start each class.

The AVID Site Team will be meeting soon. This group is composed of teachers, tutors, counselors, and administrators. Parents and students are invited to attend, too! One of the first tasks will be to schedule AVID Family Workshops for the year. The first workshop will center on AVID Contract signing fby new AVID students and their parents. Returning students will conduct the workshop and ceremony. The date will be posted as soon as it's finalized.

All of us in AVID look forward to a spectacular year of fun and success for students. Welcome back!

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