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Boosting Attendance In Preschool Can Start With A Knock On The Door

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There’s a lot of attention right now on improving attendance in schools — making sure kids don’t miss too many days. But what about the littlest students — those 3 and 4 years old? New research shows that if kids miss a lot of preschool, they’re way more likely to have problems in kindergarten or later on.

Researchers and many top preschool programs are focusing on one solution as a way of getting pre-K attendance up: Home visits at the beginning of the year, before kids start missing and before parents have a chance to feel skeptical about the school.

“No parent or family member wants the first contact to be, ‘Hey, you need to come to school for a parent meeting and it needs to happen now,’ ” says Rachel Wessler, a teacher at Burrville Elementary School in northeast Washington, D.C. Wessler trains other teachers at Burrville to do home visits, which are a big part of the school’s overall strategy.

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Education

How One University Used Big Data To Boost Graduation Rates

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Whenever you surf the Web, sophisticated algorithms are tracking where you go, comparing you with millions of other people. They’re trying to predict what you’ll do next: Apply for a credit card? Book a family vacation?

At least 40 percent of universities report that they’re trying some version of the same technology on their students, according to several recent surveys. It’s known as predictive analytics, and it can be used to either help or hurt students, says a new report from the New America Foundation.

The dangers come from the possibility of discrimination, invasions of privacy and groups of students being stigmatized, the authors, Manuela Ekowo and Iris Palmer, write. There can also be a lack of transparency when decision-making is turned over to an opaque computer program.

But a happy story cited in the report comes from Georgia State University, a large public university in Atlanta with more than 24,000 undergrads. Of those students, 60 percent are nonwhite, and many are from working-class and first-generation families.

As with many public universities, resources for student advising are limited. Large institutions tend to have staggering caseloads; a few years ago, GSU’s ratio was 700 students per adviser.

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Education

University of Chicago Strikes Back Against Campus Political Correctness

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University of Chicago students on campus Friday as the summer quarter ends. Credit Joshua Lott for The New York Times

The anodyne welcome letter to incoming freshmen is a college staple, but this week the University of Chicago took a different approach: It sent new students a blunt statement opposing some hallmarks of campus political correctness, drawing thousands of impassioned responses, for and against, as it caromed around cyberspace.

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” John Ellison, dean of students, wrote to members of the class of 2020, who will arrive next month.

It was a not-so-veiled rebuke to the protests calling for limits on what kinds of speech should be condoned on campus, and who should be allowed to speak, that have rocked Yale, Wesleyan, Oberlin and many other colleges and universities in recent years. Some alumni, dismayed by the trend, have withheld donations from their alma maters.

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Education

On Kids And Screens, A Middle Way Between Fear And Hype

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School’s out, and a lot of parents are getting through the long summer days with extra helpings of digital devices.

How should we feel about that?

Well, if you’re a faithful reader of NPR Ed we don’t blame you for being a little conflicted. On the one hand, electronic toys for babies fall short in educational benefits, some screen-addled tweens may be worse at reading emotions and cyberbullying, privacy, even suicide are concerns.

On the other hand, shows like Daniel Tiger promote pro-social messages, artificial intelligence promises “magical robo-tutors in the sky,” more students will soon be expected to learn computer science, and you can start them on it as young as age 4.

Sonia Livingstone, who has been researching families and technology for nearly three decades, says that families are getting whipsawed by this “polarized” advice.

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Education

Yes, You Can Still Teach Kids To Love Books

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The Internet has not killed the book.

For film critic David Denby, this wasn’t immediately obvious. He would watch young people hunched over their phones — on the subway, in coffee shops, walking down the street — and wonder: Are kids still learning to read books?

Denby, who is best known for his work in TheNew Yorker, went back to high school to find out. He describes his experience in Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-Four Books That Can Change Lives.

He followed three high school English classes for a full year: a 10th-grade class at The Beacon School in Manhattan, Mamaroneck High School near New York City and James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn.

Seated on a table in the back of a New York classroom — pushing copies of Shakespeare and Herman Hesse out of the way to make space for himself —Denby learned that schools can absolutely still teach kids to love literature.

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