college

Defying Dysfunction in College: Preventing Failure-to-Launch Expert Executive Function Panel

Disorders in executive functioning interfere with student success in college, both academically and emotionally. The result is that many successful high school students become part of the “failure to launch” statistics.

Larry just returned from the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA) conference where he moderated a panel of experts who shared how higher education programs are coaching students and teaching them strategies for success. The distinguished panel included Jacqueline Jewett, Mitchell College, Managing Director of Student Relations; William Presutti, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Director, Regional Center for Learning Disabilities; Kevin Mayne, Landmark College, VP for Enrollment Management; Maria Bacigalupo, Curry College, Program for Advancement of Learning (PAL); Stefano Papaleo, Lynn University, Director of Admissions.

The experts presented information to help consultants understand how to differentiate among programs when providing guidance to families.

They explained how to identify at-risk student profiles, and provided detailed examples of coaching and scaffolding. They also discussed the elements and nature of executive functions, accommodations, and supports.

Larry provides college admissions coaching to students of all academic profiles.

Tech4Learning

Assistive Technology for Math

Many parents and professionals know about Assistive Technology tools, such as audio books or text to speech that help students who have difficulty with reading or written language. But did you know that Assistive Technology tools can also help students who struggle in math?

Our comprehensive learning evaluations detect various learning challenges, including dyscalculia which causes difficulty understanding number concepts or using mathematical symbols and functions. Our recommendations are tailored to each student’s specific needs. While calculators and manipulatives can help, there are also equation solving tools that are helpful for algebra, digital graphic organizers for problem solving, and graphing tools. Other students have handwriting problems that cause them to misalign columns or resist writing out their work, all leading to errors and unhappy teachers. For these clients, we suggest graph paper and Assistive Technology tools, such as math notation tools for equations, digital drawing tools for geometry or trigonometry, text to speech, and dictation to help them work around those handwriting issues that affect their performance in math. We have many grateful clients who have overcome their math difficulties by implementing our strategies.

For more information, look at the excellent article on Assistive Technology for Math at www.understood.org. If your child or student struggles in math, please contact us to schedule a learning evaluation. We will pinpoint the root cause and provide customized solutions.

Student reading a book and writing an essay

Do You Edit College Essays?

That is a question I am often asked and yet I hesitate to answer. Maybe I should just get used to answering “Yes!” first, but I often feel the need to explain.

What stops me from just saying yes? Well every person who might ask me knows plenty of folks who can simply check spelling and grammar. In fact, that may be all they do. Editing itself is not the highest skill I bring to the table. Not comas, not capitalization, not matching tenses or pronouns correctly. What is uniquely available from a professional college admissions consultant is context, the ability to look at the essay as an essential component of a larger process.

By the time a student is writing essays, I have learned much about the young person who is about to commit themselves to paper. I know what is on the student’s transcript and in the student’s brag sheet. We have talked about the teacher recommendations the student will seek and why those teachers were chosen. There may have been an Interest Inventory completed and the student hopefully has academic or vocational aspirations. I know what activities have most engaged the student during high school. I know the students’ standardized test scores. Additional testing, beyond SAT or ACT might have been shared with me. I know a thing or two about the colleges on the student’s list – I’ve checked my available resources, and it’s very likely I’ve visited the colleges in person.

When the student starts writing, I am not focused on the editing part at first. I am focused on the concept. I ask myself, “how will this essay advance the candidacy of the student?” I test the work for its authenticity – does it likely dovetail with what will be in other parts of the application. Will the student who is revealed in the essay sound like the same young person described by the high school counselor, teachers, and others. Does the essay add to the integrity of the application?

When this is right, I start on the routine editing that every high school student needs in order to, “reveal the character of the applicant in the writer’s own authentic voice.” The goal is to have the student jump off the page for the admissions reader.

Do I edit college essays? You decide.

Larry Blumenstyk, CEP

education, elementary school, learning and people concept - group of school kids sitting and listening to teacher in classroom from back

Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class

As a society, we know how important exercise is to our physical health. We are well aware of the physiological benefits including strength and overall fitness. For students who have trouble with focus and attention, the value of physical activity is widely known to special educators. Specific programs such as Brain Gym and How Does My Engine Run? incorporate the premise that movement improves learning.

Now researchers are focusing on how physical activity helps all children learn better. The idea of sitting still all day is not only counter-intuitive; it’s counterproductive. As standing desks have become an office norm, shouldn’t we rethink this idea in the classroom? Short activity breaks implemented throughout the school day are showing real promise in terms of academic performance. Physical activity can help reset the brain in preparation to learn and, therefore, should no longer be limited to gym class and playground time. Donna De La Cruz examines this issue in an interesting New York Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/21/well/family/why-kids-shouldnt-sit-still-in-class.html.

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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.

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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.

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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
Sean@jerseyunited.com