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Jennifer Kobrin

Beyond School Hours XV: See You in California!

by Jennifer Kobrin February 13, 2012
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This week in Burlingame, California, Foundations is holding its fifteenth annual Beyond School Hours (BSH) conference. I look forward to BSH each year because I always meet so many interesting people from across the country working in school, afterschool, and in our neediest communities. As I mentioned in last year’s blog entry, Beyond School Hours is one of the only national education conferences that puts afterschool at front and center, highlighting out-of-school time programs—and the people who make them happen—as critical to kids’ success.

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EL Reform for Large Urban Districts

by Jennifer Kobrin October 13, 2011
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The two districts with the largest numbers of English learners, Los Angeles and New York City, are both receiving pressure to substantially reform services for these students. In New York, the state commissioner on education held a video conference yesterday, calling for more qualified bilingual teachers and pointing out the city’s alarming 7% graduation rate for ELs.

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Mother Tongue, or another Tongue?

by Jennifer Kobrin September 22, 2011
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For years, would-be cheesesteak patrons at Geno’s Steaks in South Philadelphia have been confronted with a simple message: “This is America. When ordering, please speak English.” (We’ll forget for a moment that ordering cheesesteaks in Philadelphia has its own language, with phrases like “wit wiz,” etymology unknown). There is a photo of owner Joey Vento pointing to the sign on Geno’s website.

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STEM, Reading, and Rock & Roll

by Jennifer Kobrin September 15, 2011
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A couple of weeks ago I watched an inspiring primetime television special hosted by, producer and front man for the band, The Black-Eyed Peas (As of January, he is also Intel’s Director of Creative Innovation). The program was called First: Science is Rock & Roll and highlighted the 20th Annual FIRST Robotics Championship. A non-profit organization like Foundations, FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – designs innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills. Inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST in 1989.

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Hungarians Reject English, But Why?

by Jennifer Kobrin August 31, 2011

In a story reported by the Wall Street Journal last week, the Hungarian government plans to discourage teaching English in schools. Officials believe it is too easy to learn and can lead to frustrations when children eventually start learning additional, harder, languages. As a former ESOL teacher, I’m curious about how people form values around languages. Learning even a few words in an additional language can resonate emotionally and evoke strong opinions.

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Afterschool Programs Use Project-Based Learning to Incorporate Literacy

by Jennifer Kobrin August 24, 2011
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Project-based learning is a wonderful answer to the ubiquitous student refrain: “Yeah, but how am I going to use this in real life?” Hands-on, multidisciplinary projects can build literacy skills while engaging students with the world outside their classroom or playground. This week I’m proud to feature a guest blog from colleagues Jason Schwalm and Karen Smuck-Tylek , OST Program Specialists at Philadelphia Health Management Corporation. Be sure to check out their blog—it’s a terrific resource.

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New Report Highlights the Benefits of Afterschool Participation

by Jennifer Kobrin August 18, 2011

Over the past several years, Foundations has partnered with elementary schools in some of Providence’s poorest neighborhoods to help all children read on grade level by third grade. Working with teachers, principals, afterschool workers, family support specialists, librarians, literacy coaches, health workers, and many others, we saw firsthand that when everyone works hard and is willing to collaborate closely across programs, agencies, and departments, amazing things can happen for kids.

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STEM and English Learners Continues to be Focus of Feds

by Jennifer Kobrin August 11, 2011
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I’m back from the Dakotas, where I presented last week at a statewide conference for 21st Century Community Learning Center grantees. After a brief game of chicken with a buffalo standing in the road, I was reminded that rural afterschool programs face many of the same challenges as their urban counterparts (except I guess how to move 1,000 pounds of Bison). It’s really about being able to leverage that spark of curiosity all young people possess into authentic, academic learning opportunities. Which brings me to this week’s topic—STEM and English learners!

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Omit Needless Words

by Jennifer Kobrin July 27, 2011
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Christopher Johnson’s new book, “Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little,” reviewed yesterday in the New York Times, is a “guide to verbal strategies that make very short messages effective, interesting, and memorable.” ‘Big Style,’ (a term the author uses that roughly equates to what my father calls ‘the grammar police’) confounds the set of necessary rules that allow readers to make sense of written language with an insecurity about prescriptive grammatical principles. Traditional style guides are mostly a set of guidelines about not what to do.

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Action Brief on English Learners in PreK to 3rd Grade

by Jennifer Kobrin July 21, 2011
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Back in November, the state of Illinois drew national attention to English Learners in early childhood by being the first state to mandate that preschool programs offer bilingual instruction, as I reported in this blog. The Foundation for Child Development is now building awareness on this worthy issue, partially by releasing a PreK-3rd action brief about raising the educational performance of ELs.

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