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Betsy DeVos Nominated as Secretary of Education

Learning Associates founder and director, Holly Blumenstyk, has written an article regarding the nomination of Betsy DeVos to Secretary of Education.

January 18, 2017

In a recent New York Times article “As Other Districts Grapple With Segregation, This One Makes It Work” written by Kyle Spencer, I was quoted for my role in assisting families with private school placements. However, I also work closely with families whose students attend public schools and charter schools. It is in that capacity that I have tried to understand the role that Betsy DeVos, nominee for Secretary of Education, played in education in Michigan and what direction she may take in the national arena.

Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press, a newspaper that advocates for successful charter schools and educational choice as options, noted in his article “Betsy DeVos and the Twilight of Public Education” that parents in Detroit have plenty of choices, but “quality choices are in short supply.”

In her Answer Sheet column in The Washington Post, Valerie Strauss reported that despite knowledge that most charter schools in Michigan were performing below public school averages in that state, Betsy DeVos was largely responsible for the increase in charter schools there. She accomplished this by donating large sums of money to PACs and lawmakers that supported charter schools. This ultimately led to the derailment of a bipartisan provision to provide more oversight of charter schools in order to monitor and improve the quality of education provided to the children attending them.

Stephen Henderson defined public education as “a trust between government and the people that seeks to provide opportunity for those who wouldn’t otherwise have it.” Betsy DeVos does not have a background as an educator and her priorities in the past raise concerns about the funding and availability of a high quality education for public school students under her leadership. Let’s each do what we can to support that trust between government, families, and our children by ensuring a high quality public education is available to all students in our country.

Holly Blumenstyk, M.Ed., LDTC
Nationally Certified Educational Diagnostician
Director, Learning Associates

Teenage African American male wearing a plaid button-up shirt sitting at a desk in class. He is writing in a notebook on his desk using a pencil.  Around him are his classmates, also writing on their papers.  They are all concentrating on their own work.

SSAT Flex Testing

This winter, along with the occasional snow flurry, we have had a flurry of inquiries about SSAT Flex testing. Families request this small group administration in our private office for a variety of reasons. In some cases, illness or athletic commitments prevented a student from attending a standard test date administration. In other situations, parents felt that their students would perform better in a more personal, small setting with fewer distractions.

However, some of the inquiries have come from families late to the process of applying to secondary schools or from parents who lost track of the testing requirements. They also tend to have questions about test deadlines, how to designate score recipients, and other details. Navigating the requirements of private school and boarding school admissions without the guidance of an independent educational consultant is often the root problem. We start this process early with our clients– spring, summer and early fall – to formulate a plan which tracks all of the various deadlines. Our program allows the student to properly prepare for every aspect of admissions: testing, interviews, and essays. Both students and parents are less stressed throughout the entire application cycle.

Of course, we are happy to administer the SSAT Flex test to all who need it. If you know a family applying to private day or boarding schools, please suggest that they contact Holly for her guidance.

Portrait of beautiful girl in the city

Professional Conferences, School and College Visits

Some highlights from where we have been and where we’re going next

Each fall hundreds of admissions officers from private day and boarding schools travel to New Jersey to attend the Far Hills Country Day School Fair. At this year’s fair, Holly met with representatives from Blair Academy, Dublin School, Cheshire Academy, the Craig School, Christchurch School, Concord Academy, and Wilbraham & Monson Academy. We also hosted private meetings in our office with professionals from Millbrook School, Kimball Union Academy, Westover School, and the Hotchkiss School. These opportunities allow Holly to personally connect with the admissions representatives on behalf of her school placement clients.

Holly returned to the Fusion Academy, Morristown campus, on October 4th for a meeting with Deb Russ, Director of Admissions and Outreach, and Liz Edwards, Outreach Coordinator at the Park Avenue campus. Holly toured the Morristown campus where some students were engaged in their 1:1 instruction while others completed independent work and socialized in the Homework Café.

Larry and Holly attended a special evening sponsored by Barnstable Academy and the Fusion Academy campuses in Morristown and Englewood on October 6th. They enjoyed opportunities to speak with faculty and administrators from these schools and to watch the inspiring TED talk by Ken Robinson, author of Creative Schools.

In November Larry traveled to Poughkeepsie, New York to attend the counselor event at beautiful Marist College, which included presentations on trends in College Admissions by a NACAC staff member, Melissa Clinedinst, who shared selected data from the NACAC’s annual report. On the same day, Larry had a long-planned personal meeting with Mary Jo Cavanaugh, the Director of the Office for Accessibility and Educational Opportunity at historic Vassar College.

In November, Holly visited Barnstable Academy, a day school for students in grades 5-12, in Oakland, NJ where she spent the morning with Luanne McGann, Director of Admissions and Outreach. Luanne explained their student centered approach to teaching which supports the academic, social and emotional needs of their students. Holly was particularly impressed with the Accent Reading program which uses a variety of teaching methods to address reading difficulties. At Barnstable, they stress the importance of community and want all their students to have a sense of belonging.

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What’s New at Learning Associates?

Did you know Learning Associates now offers one-on-one tutoring for teens, college age students, and adults? Ronnie Thompson, who has worked with us for 28 years, is a certified Learning Disabilities Teacher-Consultant who has completed the Orton Gillingham Dyslexia Specialist training. If you know someone struggling with reading or spelling, please contact our office to schedule tutoring appointments with Ronnie.

After an insightful conversation with James Vander Hooven, Vice President of Enrollment for Landmark College, Holly and Larry were asked to join the Educational Consultant Advisory Group of the college. A few times throughout the year, Landmark President, Dr. Peter Eden, discusses future plans, current events, challenges, and opportunities with a select group of educational consultants to gain their input. We are excited about this opportunity to exchange information with Landmark!

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Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going Next

In August, Larry spoke at the final meeting for the 2015-16 cycle of Let’s Get Ready. Let’s Get Ready is a not-for-profit, Community Based Organization that provides students with free admissions counseling, test preparation, and other services to help gain admission to college. Having worked with this organization in the past, Larry was thrilled to meet with their extraordinary students again as part of this sendoff event.

Holly attended an Open House at the Purnell School in August. She was greeted by Jeff Beedy, Head of School, and met individually with Vicky Browne, Director of Enrollment Management and Student Life, Beth Rainey, Director of Admission, and Jessica Eckert, Associate Head of School. During the visit, each shared detailed information about their Learning Center, tutoring programs, individualized curriculum, technology, and extracurricular programs. Holly appreciated the opportunity to update her knowledge about Purnell, a school she has visited several times over the years.

In September, Holly and Larry traveled to Baltimore for the annual Enrollment Management Association (formerly SSATB) conference. Holly was part of a presentation for school Admissions Directors and staff entitled “The Ed Consultant’s Role in Yielding Your Best: What New Research Shows.” She and her colleagues, including Mark Sklarow, CEO of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, examined the impact of Independent Educational Consultants upon the school search, application, and admission process. While in Baltimore, Larry visited Washington College and St. John’s College.

Holly attended the Far Hills Country Day School Fair on September 22nd. With over 120 schools represented, this is one of the largest school fairs on the East Coast. This fair is open to families and professionals. Holly spoke with representatives from both day schools and boarding schools on behalf of her client families and also had private meetings with admissions representatives while they are in town for this event.


PRESS RELEASE: Jersey United Soccer Club Partners with Learning Associates as Official Educational Consultant

9/21/ 2016
by Jersey United Soccer Club

For Immediate Release—Pine Brook, NJ September 21,2016—Jersey United Soccer Club, a non-profit entity focused on providing quality training and exposure to collegiate coaches, announced today a partnership with Learning Associates, an educational consulting company that provides individualized educational services to children and adults of all academic profiles.

Learning Associates has been offering services since 1981.  Through the Jersey United partnership, members will have the opportunity to be regularly educated on the importance of the academic process while they pursue their passion for sport through seminars, podcasts and social media.

The importance of academic accomplishment for recruited athletes is imperative to play collegiate soccer.  Having known each other for 10 years, it was natural for Club President and Founder, Martin Brown and Director of the College Admissions Program at Learning Associates LLC, Larry Blumenstyk to form a strategic partnership to benefit our student athletes.

“I’m very excited to have Larry advising our youth players on the important balance of education and the recruitment process within the club.  Helping players understand all that goes into getting to the next level as an athlete and student will create an environment where players are working toward that ultimate goal of getting to the next level,” said Brown.

“My daughter, Julia, was part of the Jersey United program and was able to be recruited and play at the collegiate level.  The club is a great platform for youth players and with the addition of our programs from Learning Associates into Jersey United’s Curriculum, we can help create the ultimate one stop shop for a player aspiring to play collegiate soccer,” said Blumenstyk.

About Jersey United
Jersey United was formed in 2004 under the direction of Martin Brown.  The program started as a training organization in 2004 with the Get the Edge Training program and has grown into a multi-level organization consisting of camps, clinics, facility management and a non-profit College Showcase Soccer Club.  The company currently supports a coaching staff of 10.  For more information, follow us on Facebook: @jerseyunitedspartans, Twitter: @JUSpartans, Instagram: @jersey_united_spartans and/or www.jerseyunited.com.

About Learning Associates

Learning Associates offers an unusually broad range of consulting services including comprehensive educational evaluations, school placement advising, college admissions coaching, educational consulting, school advocacy and expert witness services and has helped thousands of students meet their educational goals.  For more details about our services, please follow us on Facebook: @LearningAssociates, Twitter: @LearnMorristown, LinkedIn and www.learningassoc.com.

Media Contacts
Sean Davies
Assistant Director of Coaching

Marketing and Supplementary Programs


Professional Conferences, School and College Visits

Some highlights from where we have been and where we’re going next:

This spring Holly’s day school visits included York Prep and the Professional Children’s School (both in Manhattan), Montclair Kimberley Academy, Gill St. Bernard’s, the Ben Samuels Children Center at Montclair State University, and many public schools.

Larry toured Swarthmore College in April as part of a small group of Independent Educational Consultants. The admissions office presented an update on the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success (http://www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org), which is rolling out a new application platform. Then Professor E. Carr Everbach, the Chair of the Engineering department, personally led a discussion session about Swarthmore’s unique engineering program within a very small, elite liberal arts college. This was followed by a tour of the engineering facilities with Professor Everbach as their guide.

In May, Holly made a quick trip to see three Northeastern boarding schools before students leave for the summer recess. She toured the campuses and met with admission representatives at Berkshire School, Salisbury School, and the Hotchkiss School.

Larry will travel to Philadelphia in June to attend the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA) Conference: “Revolution and Innovation in Higher Education.” Discussions and breakout sessions will address many important and timely issues in higher education such as the new SAT, the Coalition Application, and current trends in college admissions.

In September, Holly will participate in the Mid-Atlantic Boarding School group’s Fall tour. She and her colleagues will visit each of the member schools which include Episcopal High School, Mercersburg Academy, Blair Academy, Peddie School and St. Andrew’s School.


New Jersey Association of Independent Schools

In May, Holly spoke at the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJAIS) Admissions Conference. Her address served to introduce the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) to the audience of approximately eighty school admissions representatives and educational professionals. The IECA is a national organization of nearly 1,500 professionals who assist families and students with day school, boarding school, therapeutic, and post-secondary placement advising. Holly also discussed the opportunities for collaboration between the IECA and private schools to improve and facilitate the admissions process. She has served on the IECA Schools Committee for the past four years, most recently as Vice-Chair, and on the IECA Learning Disabilities Committee.


Unique U.

What makes our college advising different? Students and their families have many options when it comes to college advising, from the school guidance counselor to a variety of private consultants. Often college counseling is delivered as a standard, linear process that relies on formulaic checklists. While useful, this model is limited and certainly does not fit every student, nor should it. Every young person is unique and college applicants are choosing among thousands of colleges which run the gamut in style and content. Learning Associates utilizes a more holistic approach to our clients, just as the colleges that provide an outstanding education do when evaluating applicants. We consider the specific needs, strengths, and weaknesses of each student to customize a plan. Beyond grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities, we work to highlight each student’s unique qualities within the constraints of the application. We personally guide and coach each applicant through the entire process to ensure the strength of the application and, ultimately, the best results.

So as the admissions cycle for the college Class of 2020 comes to an end, we are very proud to share our students’ results:
•    83% Acceptance rate (excluding waitlisted)
•    Total amount of merit, non-need based aid offered: $2,305,000 over 4 years
•    Average 4-year merit award: $52,384


Early Detection for Learning Disabilities

At Learning Associates, we believe early detection and intervention for learning disabilities are critical to future success.

According to the National Institute of Health, 8 to 10 percent of American children under the age of 18 have some type of learning disability. Having a learning disability can negatively impact a child’s ability to speak, read, write, understand math, and form social relationships. An undiagnosed learning disability can have a “snowball effect:” without the mastery of one skill, the next task becomes even more difficult, and then the student falls behind. As school becomes more frustrating, a child’s self-esteem may suffer along with his/her interest in school.

Through educational testing and observations, we can identify learning disabilities in even very young children. Holly then develops recommendations to address the particular challenges at home and in school as well as suitable school placements. She also works with schools to implement appropriate classroom accommodations. When learning disabilities are detected and addressed early, they have less impact on a child’s future academic success and well-being.