Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bright Kids Who Can't Keep Up

by Matt Marenghi

Over the course of middle school, academic standards and expectations naturally progress and students must meet the increasing demands. Among all the reasons that a student could possibly have difficulty meeting such demands, I’ve often learned “processing speed” is the culprit. The book Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up provides both a thorough understanding of processing speed and practical approaches to support students who are adversely affected by it.

From the author’s work with Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) out of Massachusetts General Hospital, the book indicates that 77% of children with processing speed deficits were currently receiving formalized IEP or 504 support, further indicating the overwhelming impact processing speed has on academic progress.

The book explains processing speed as an executive functioning skill, making it analogous to the engine of a car; having a more powerful and/or efficient engine will allow the car to move faster and/or run more efficiently. Processing speed has implications for a child’s home environment, social life, and emotional stability/well-being. This book struck a chord with my parental lens with the following passage:
Studies have shown that when family members argue, both volume and rate of speech increase dramatically - as much as two to three times - which should be no shock to anyone who’s had a passionate discussion or disagreement with someone.

This speaks to the patience that is necessary in supporting children with processing speed issues, and how a lack thereof can only dramatically exacerbate frustrating situations.

Further to this end, I did find this book to likely be more valuable for parents than for educators (though it is by no means not valuable for educators :) It really confronts the more intimate issues relative to processing speed issues, but does a great job of offering practical strategies to manage them. Thematically weaved into the book is the strategy of implementing the “Three As”: Accept, Accommodate, and Advocate.

In my professional role of supporting students, this book boosted my confidence and thickened the context by which I can have these types of conversations with families. I recommend it both to anyone just entering, or in the thick of these types of conversations.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Swimming with the Sharks - A Take on Selective Admissions


by Kathy Mahoney

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the National Conference for NACAC - the National Association for College Admission Counseling. My first session focused on how best to counsel students and families in a competitive and demanding admissions climate. There are thousands of students applying to each school, and colleges have the difficult job of building an admissible class. This task includes denying talented students, many of whom meet the admissions criteria and would make fantastic students at their institution. With the number of applications rising and admissions rates falling, it’s no wonder that students and families feel like they are left swimming with the sharks. Here are two big takeaways to keep in mind as you go through the process.

     1). There is no such thing as fairness in the admission process. It’s easy to compare yourself with others around you, but try not to fall into that trap. “I have a better GPA than Johnny, but Johnny got in and I didn’t. That’s not fair.” However, Johnny plays the oboe and the college happens to be short one oboe player. GPA clearly wasn’t the only factor in this admission decision. The following year, Sarah says, “I have a better GPA than Johnny did and I’m a better oboe player!” Well, the school doesn’t need an oboe player anymore; their institutional priorities have shifted. Fairness in college admissions just isn’t possible.

     2). Think outside the box! In this case, the box is the Northeast and West Coast. These schools have been hit by increasing amounts of applications, leading to tougher standards and lower admission rates. By contrast, there are hundreds of great schools everywhere in between that might be a perfect fit for you! Colleges like geographic diversity and may be more likely to admit a candidate from a state that has little representation at their school. Keep an open mind and look at schools outside of our region to increase your likelihood of admission. There are some real gems out there!

Remember to work with your guidance counselor to come up with a list of colleges that is right for you. We look forward to helping you!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

“ROLL TIDE!”: The SEC via a “drive-thru window approach”

by Erik Ormberg

During the second week of September I had the chance to attend the SEC (South Eastern Conference) admissions breakfast.

The group of college representatives presented in Portland, ME, Boston, MA and Providence, RI three days in a row.

The event can be summed up in three minutes. Literally.

Each school had three minutes to give their overview--and if they went over, the representative from Mississippi State rang a cowbell. Though not as subtle as the orchestra playing at the Oscars when recipients go over their time limit, the group--for the most part--stayed committed to their time constraints. Brevity was the main course at this breakfast forcing each school to get to the nitty-gritty of their admissions trends and policies.

Getting a snapshot from 14 schools in less than two hours is exactly how I want to get my information about schools that are over 1000 miles from Medfield.

Image result for thesecu.com

After a quick overview from LSU, each school’s representative performed their respective, “roll call.” Each guidance counselor in the room had to perform the college’s rally cry. So, we all engaged in ‘Bama’s “Roll Tide,” Auburn’s “War Eagle,” Florida’s “Gator Chop,” and Ole Miss’s “Hotty Toddy.”

Roll call got everyone moving and set the tone. Fourteen schools presented admissions trends and statistics, but also emphasized the large, VOCAL, vibrant school spirit present on each campus.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Clay Alexander, admissions representative from the University of Tennessee. He looked like the endzones of Neyland stadium, adorned in an orange checkerboard shirt and vintage UT orange tie. “Rocky Top you’ll always be, home sweet home to me.”

Our conversation revolved around the recalculating of GPAs, rankings, and the strength of schedule and strength of institution. Though he didn’t go into detail, Clay did explain that the school profile provided by each high school plays a large part in admissions. The strength of a public high school may help enhance a student’s application.

Though this “drive-thru” approach didn’t dive deep, the materials given and the comments presented were extremely helpful in identifying schools for kids looking to venture beyond New England and the northeast corridor.

After leaving Providence, I thought about the senior girl in my office the day prior looking for a “safety-school.” Having her GPA and board scores still bouncing around my head made me realize she’d be a great candidate for the University of South Carolina’s honors college.

I wish more gatherings of colleges or leagues would follow suit. It is helpful for counselors to only miss part of their work day, yet still receive helpful professional development without having to travel hundreds of miles. “MIZ….ZOU!”