Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New format for K-5 Report Cards in DPS

We are in the middle of another great PFAST (Parent & Family Advocacy and Support Training), so we are spending more time then usual on the DPS website and have been finding some new tools and information.   If you have a Kindergarten-5th grade student you might be interested in the district's new report card format.  DPS is transitioning to using the levels 1, 2, 3, & 4 that you may be familiar with from End-of-Grade (EOG) Tests as the report card ‘grading’ method K-5 for every school.  

Previously you saw this mostly in grades K-2 with letter grades (the traditional A, B, C, D, F) starting at third grade.  DPS has produced a guide on their website that you might be interested in reading.  It doesn’t give copies of the report card, but more so the description of what the numbers mean and how it relates to your student's progress.  The new report card format is designed to reflect more specific standards and more closely align with the new Common Core Standards.

Monday, October 29, 2012

DPS makes Student Information available online via Parent Assistant

Parent Assistant, an online access point for your student's data K-12, is available to Durham Public School parents who sign up at their school.  Parent Assistant gives you access to grades, credits, attendance data, courses, and much more.  You do have to go to your school, see the NC Wise Data Manager, and show a photo id to get started.   Just go to the front desk to find and ask for them.  Here's more information.  It sounds like a great tool for parents!

Durham Education Resources would love to hear more about your experience with Parent Assistant.  Anyone tried it?  How does it work for  you?  Was it easy to get started?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Education Forum on Engaging African American Parents Sat. 10/27

A free forum "Engaging African American Parents, Fostering Our Children's Success" will be held at NC Central University on this Saturday, October 27 at 8:30 a.m. A continental breakfast will be served. The keynote address will be given by Dr. Wynetta Lee, new Dean of the School of Education at NCCU. 

Workshops on the under-performance of black students and other topics will be addressed.  This is the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People's 1st Annual Education Forum.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Advocacy Workshop on 10/11 Informs Parents about Budgetary Impacts

The Our Community, Our Priorities Event and Advocacy Workshop at DSA on Thursday October 11th is an important opportunity to learn more about how the State budget impacts local programs and schools.  Cooperative Extension’s Strengthening Families Coalition is one of the sponsors of the event.  We will have a table and I will be participating in a conversation about advocacy skills regarding the budget.  Please consider attending.  


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Make a difference for your child--PFAST Training for Parents starts October 9th!

Do you want to better navigate our public and charter schools to help your child succeed?   Have you received your child’s first progress report and it is not what you expected? Do you find the maze of school choices confusing? Do you want to better understand the programs schools offer for your child? Are you an advocate for a child and want to know more? Do you have an EC or AIG child who needs support?

If you haven't yet, you will want to consider taking the popular Parent & Family Advocacy and Support Training (PFAST) starting Tuesday, October 9 from 6:00-8:00PM at Durham Cooperative Extension, 721 Foster Street.  This six-week workshop series will help any parent K-12 better navigate our schools and build partnerships—public  and charter schools—to help your child succeed.   Dinner is included and childcare is available.

A flyer and registration form are available at the links below with all dates and more information.    Please note this is the only open series for any parent from any school before 2013.

Who should come to PFAST?
v  ANY Parent K-12 who just wants to know more about public or charter schools and how to get the most of your child’s education.
v  Grandparents, guardians, and foster parents
v  Families with exceptional or gifted children
v  Parents from other countries who want to better understand the American education system and Durham & NC in particular.
v  Parents with Pre-K Children who want to know more about schools and make choices for the future.
v  Parents who have children in Middle or High School and are encountering new challenges.

What topics are covered?
·         Parent Involvement and Advocacy
·         Building a Positive Parent – School Relationship
·         School Choice and School Lotteries
·         Common Core / NC Standards & No Child Left Behind
·         Improving Parent-School Communication
·         Maximizing Parent-Teacher Conferences
·         Testing / EOGs & EOCs
·         High School Requirements
·         AND much more!

The program will accept registrations up to October 9th depending on space.  Please call Donna Rewalt, PFAST Coordinator, at (919) 560-0538 or by email at if you have questions.    Also, LPFAST in Spanish will be offered at several schools through a partnership with DPS starting in November.  We will share more information when the dates and locations are set.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

ABC's of IEPs training on 10/6--Register today!

THE ABC's OF IEPs," facilitated by the Exceptional Children's Assistance Center (ECAC) is a great workshop for any parent, guardian, or those working for young people with special needs.  The ECAC workshop will make a difference for your child or those you work with. This free workshop takes place this Saturday, October 6th, 9:00am-3:30pm, at the Shared Visions Retreat Center, 3717 Murphy School Rd., Durham.  It is well worth the investment of your time.

If you have a special needs child who either needs or currently has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in school, this workshop will provide you with vital information to help you navigate the special education system.  Professional treatment providers and educators are also invited to attend and are requested to bring a parent with them.  This workshop is free of charge and includes all training materials, refreshments and lunch!
If you get this after the registration deadline, call them directly as they may still have space.

Register by clicking the link below.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Education Summit on Raising Expectations & Closing Gaps

The Howard N. Lee Institute is holding a NC Education Summit on Raising Expectations and Closing Gaps.  It is in Greensboro on September 24-26 at Koury Convention Center, an easy drive from Durham.  Registration is still open.  This looks like a good one and seems similar to the former Closing the Gap conference, but with a bigger advocacy piece.  Check out the sessions and topics at

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Titantic Exhibit Comes to Raleigh September 29th

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh is bringing the Titantic artifact exhibit to town starting September 29th through April 2013.  I experienced it with my family several years ago and found it very educational and an opportunity to talk about the issues and ideas that the exhibit explores through the very personal artifacts shared.  There is a charge for this special exhibition and a student rate, but entrance to the museum as always is free!  There are also opportunities for group rates and it seems like a great topic for a project or paper.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy Dropout Recovery in Durham

Some of you may already know about the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy which is part of DPS and serves students grades 9-12 who have dropped out. It sounds like a great dropout recovery program. It offers a combo of online and face-to-face learning. If you know someone who has dropped out and needs a second chance, take a look and share the opportunity with them.
Today’s Herald Sun Article

DPS Information

The principal of the Academy is the principal of the Durham Performance Learning Center, Danny Gilfort, .  You can reach the program at 919-560-9190

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

DPS High School Requirements (English & Español)

We recently received the lastest copies of Durham Public Schools' High School Requirements in English and Spanish.  It is easy to read and understand.  Check out the links below.

Many of you may have missed the addition of one social studies credit by the state of North Carolina for those starting high school in this 2012-2013 school year, which brings the number of social studies credits required from 3 to 4..  Students entering high school prior to this year are not required to complete this additional credit.  The state frequently tweaks high school requirements, but students are only responsible for requirements in the year they enter high school.

DPS, like many larger systems in NC, requires more credits than the state minimum.  Durham requires seven additional elective credits, which gives students more options and may better help prepare them for work or college.  Many folks ask about the fewer number of credits required for students at Durham School of the Arts (DSA).  This has to do with scheduling--other Durham High Schools use a block schedule, which allows you to take more courses in a year, and DSA uses a traditional schedule.

In English
DPS High School Requirements in English

En Español
DPS High School Requirements Espanol

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gifted Blog Tour this week

This is an interesting idea from one of the national gifted groups, SENG.  They are hosting a blog tour featuring key topics in gifted education, from twice exceptional to addressing challenges and advocacy.   Each day has a different topic with writers on various blogs.   You might want to check out the chatter and see the topics, the list of blogs, and the schedule.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Redefining Success for our Children

This New York Times Article talks about the pressure for our kids to be exceptional and how, as a consequence, being ordinary has gotten a bad rap.  Alina Tugend says that the problem is that we have such a limited view of what we consider an accomplished life that we devalue many qualities that are critically important.   Now that's some food for thought.  If you're intrigued, read on...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Organizing your child's educational files

This series of Wrightslaw articles were written for parents who have children with special needs and IEPs. For these families, keeping up with your children's educational paperwork is essential and can have an impact on your child.  However,  many families can benefit from the concept of putting together their child's educational history in an easy to access format.  We have seen this type of organization benefit families in IEP meetings and other situations when sharing or examining the right information at the right time is important.  Organizing your files also helps you get a better perspective of your child and his or her progress.

Just click on the link and scroll down for the articles.

If you don't have the records you think you should have, ANY family can request educational records.  You may have to wait a few weeks for the school to get them to you or pay a modest fee for copying, but they can be helpful.  In addition to grades and test scores, your child's records include information about discipline, attendance and other items about their performance or educational interventions. 

In PFAST training, we encourage all families to keep up with key educational records.  An organized system like the one Wrightslaw describes is most helpful, but if you at least put them in the same accordian file, drawer, or shoebox, you will have a better chance of finding what you need.  We also recommend saving a few work samples, particularly in areas your child struggles, but also in areas where your child is doing well.

So, this summer, pull those records together, get them organized and be ready to start the next school year prepared!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Awesome Local Government Seminar for Teachers with Credits!

Check out this great Local Government seminar happening in Durham and open to any educator in NC. You get great strategies for helping your students understand and care about local government -- plus a free Bulls game, meals, and other goodies to boot.  One of our Extension co-workers with our Kids Voting Durham Program took this training and gives it two thumbs up.  Check out this offering and others from the Civic Education Consortium at UNC.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Observations From the DPS Common Core Session for Middle and High School

We attended the DPS middle/high school session on the new Common Core Standards on Monday Night.  After some early technical difficulties with video, the session was a decent primer on what common core is about--Common Core addresses Language Arts and Math K-12. Other courses (science, social studies etc.) fall under the new NC Essential Standards, which are all found, along with Common Core, at  There were fewer specifics on implementation, but some of those details (and all of our personal questions) were addressed through the Q and A session following the initial presentation.  DPS has a link on its main page (see the Crossing the Bridge logo).  The link they have on this page leads you to additional resources.

If you couldn't attend and are interested, we will just make a few observations and report on a few items that stood out:

About Math:We were particularly interested in learning more about the secondary math sequence.  There were many questions about math last night, particularly for advanced learners.  In general, the math standards are more rigorous than our current standards.  This is what we learned:

1) If you are currently in Algebra I (in middle or high school), you will continue with the sequence of Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II.  Teachers teaching these courses will be infusing those courses with Common Core practices.  Students who will start their High School Math Sequence next year (whether in middle or high school), will start with Common Core I (replaces Algebra I). 

2) Students who are advanced math learners in Middle School will take compacted math courses 6th grade Plus (covers 6th grade and part of 7th) and 7th grade Plus (covers rest of 7th and part of 8th) leading to Common Core I in 8th grade.  Most students in DPS will take the more rigorous Grade 6, 7, & 8 standards preparing them for Common Core I in the 9th grade.

3) Some students, who meet the more rigorous criteria, will be able to take Common Core I in 7th grade, but this will likely be fewer students than take the course currently as the demands of Common Core I are greater than the current Algebra course.  (This appears to be the approach of other local districts as well.)  EVAAS scores (a predictive program developed by SAS) and other measures will be used to determine eligibility.

3) None of the changes affect whether a student meets high school graduation requirements or receives credit.  so, Algebra I and Common Core I provide the same credit.  These apparently should not affect college admission either as this is a change for 45 states and D.C.

A few general observations:  Other countries (who are kicking our American butts academically), usually explore fewer topics, but go much deeper into those topics with application and using the material.  This is the direction that Core Standards are supposed to take us.

--Language Arts will become more a part of all courses with writing, reading, etc.

--Greater emphasis on more complex texts and using non-fiction, informational texts and producing arguments, evaluating sources and evidence, etc. Part of the idea here is that our college and work lives demand a much higher level of ability to understand and evaluate complex non-fiction texts that our current standards do not emphasize.

--More emphasis on using multiple texts, so studying Africa and reading articles, a piece of literature, a biography, using maps etc. as part of this study as opposed to just reading a textbook.

--Math will be much more rigorous and integrated, so this will bring Geometic concepts into Algebra in Common Core I, rather than separating Math out into discrete bundles as most of us were taught.  Problem solving and application will be emphasized throughout.

--Testing is about to undergo a transformation in math and language arts as well, with a shift to new national online assessments that are supposed to be in place by 2014.   Last night they referred to the fact the state will be making changes to current assessments to prepare for this transition. 

Overall, the depth of what is expected in terms of learning is a shift.  The devil is in the implementation and it will take some community support and focus as these shifts are made.  It will have an impact on how teachers teach, so we should consider advocating and supporting teacher training and the time needed for teachers to fully engage with the new standards.  Though, there are teachers and schools that already use many of the practices of good teaching that these standards demand; for others, this will require developing new skills.  It seems there needs to be time for teachers to share and learn from those who are ahead on this.  DPS did address some of their teacher training plans.

We've briefly surveyed common core information from some of our neighboring school systems, like Chapel-Hill Carrboro, and we appear to be handling this in a similar way. We are hopeful that the questions asked at the sesion will result in some pretty clear FAQs and more detailed DPS-specific info online as well as some additional info sessions at the district and school level this fall, so more parents can understand the practical impact on their children.

If you attended the elementary session on Tuesday evening and would be willing to share a summary or your own observations about this, let us know.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Common Core Standards Sessions for Parents 6/4 & 6/5

There are Common Core Standards Sessions for parents this week--tonight, Monday 6/4, for middle and high school parents and Tuesday 6/5 for elementary school.  These new standards will change the way our schools teach and how classes are organized, particularly in math at the secondary level. Check below for the details.

Five Free and Easy Tips for Summer Learning: Research Pointers and What You Can Do | Reading Topics A-Z | Reading Rockets

Want to stop the summer brain drain?  We really like these research based tips for summer learning.  Parents always hear 'read every day,' but when have you heard 'do math every day'?  These are some good suggestions connected to research.

Five Free and Easy Tips for Summer Learning: Research Pointers and What You Can Do | Reading Topics A-Z | Reading Rockets

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Web resource of the

Wrightslaw is a website dedicated to providing parents, educators, and advocates with reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities.  Wrightslaw offers information about key topics around exceptional children, such as Twice Expectional, IEPs, evaluations, and how to write an effective letter.   The founders of Wrightslaw, Pete and Pam Wright, are both tireless advocates--Pete is an attorney and professor who argued a successful special education case before the Supreme Court and was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 8.  Pam is a psychotherapist and writer.
The current issue of the Wrightslaw e-newsletter, The Special Ed Advocate, focuses on how to help struggling readers.  You can subscribe to the newsletter HERE.

I also recommend their training seminars and books for parents.  You can see information about all of this on their website.  Their training seminars are delivered all over the country and are invaluable to all parents and advocates, even if you already have some experience.  From Emotions to Advocacy and All About IEPs are a great books for parents.  We also have these books in our resource library here at Cooperative Extension if you want to take a look.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

DPS needs volunteer test proctors

Durham Public Schools is on the hunt for volunteers to serve as test proctors as the end-of-year testing period gets underway.  Testing has already begun at many schools and next week is a really big one.  Volunteer test proctors are needed to monitor the students during tests.  Proctors are provided guidelines to follow and typically serve with a staff person as two adults are needed.  Staff cannot cover the need, so community volunteers are needed.  It is an easy volunteer job and much appreciated by the schools.  You do not have to have a child in school to be a proctor.

To volunteer to serve as a test proctor contact Sheila Miglarese, volunteer services coordinator, at  or 919-560-2156.
To learn more about volunteering at DPS or to register as a volunteer, visit 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Science and Nature Camp Free for Free & Reduced Lunch Students

This one week science and nature camp, iWalk the Eno 2012, for rising 6th graders (current 5th graders) is FREE for kids getting free and reduced lunch in Durham and Orange Counties.  Partial scholarships are available and it is $150 for all others, still a good deal.  There are two options:
June 18 - 22, 2012 OR
June 25 - 29, 2012
Sponsored by the Eno River Association, it looks like a lot of fun...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

FREE Workshops for Children's Mental Health Day

There are some really great (and free!) workshops offered throughout Durham tomorrow as part of Children's Mental Health Day tomorrow, May 9th.  They are open to anyone and include topics from teen depression and the effects of trauma on children to Yoga. 

Most are short, but I highly recommend the nationally recognized Stewards of Children Training at 2:00.  It is for anyone who cares about protecting children and teens from child sexual abuse and it is very eye opening--I realized that I didn't know nearly enough.  The statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be affected in their young lives.  In light of the Penn State situation and others, it seems obvious that many of us simply don't know.  Thinking we're aware is not enough.  Take this training and find out what you don't know.  It is also a training that can be offered locally to schools,  workplaces, organizations, churches, etc. who want to host a training.  I would be happy to put you in touch with our local organizers if you are interested in that opportunity. 

Check out the link for more information including the times and locations of all of the workshops.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

DPS Support for Spanish Speaking Families

In recent months, we have seen a lot more engagement of Latino parents with DPS leadership.  This Thursday, May 3rd, at the Durham CAN Spring Assembly Meeting, DPS Superintendent and school board members will be present to hear from Durham CAN delegates and the group's Latino Parent Council.  The Latino Parent Council recently met with the superintendent to talk about the needs of Latino parents and make a few requests for support, including additional translation services, translation of key IEP components,  supporting LPFAST (Latino Parent & Family Advocacy and Support Training) for parents in DPS, and other important items.  LPFAST developed out of the Strengthening Families Coalition at Cooperative Extension.  It is good to see this training valued and used by parents--some of the parents in the Council are LPFAST grads.  If you hope to go Thursday, the meeting takes place at First Presbyterian Church at 7:00PM.

We have also noticed DPS working to reach out in more creative ways with Spanish speaking families in our schools.  DPS recently announced a partnership with LaMega Radio Station (1310AM) for a monthly talk show where DPS officials share important information in Spanish.   Throughout the show parents can call in, text and email questions.  Tune in on first Wednesday of every month at 10:30 a.m. to listen to the broadcasts.  It will be interesting to hear what parents think.

We will let you know what happens at the Durham CAN meeting.  Please share your thoughts if you have a chance to attend and even if you don't.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Information Session on Understanding the Gifted Child on May 1st

This event on May 1st at the main library is from the parent-led organization, Durham PAGE (Partners for the Advancement of Gifted Education), that supports the education of gifted children.  They will have SPANISH translation available at this event, which I’m excited about as many Latino families do have students that may be gifted or advanced learners, but are less likely to have the opportunity to become more educated about their student’s needs.  This event focuses on the social and emotional needs of gifted students and features Rick Courtright, a gifted education expert with Duke TIP.  This would be a good event for parents, educators and anyone else working with gifted students.  I have included links to the flyers in English and Spanish below.

Parent & Educator Information Session

Tuesday, May 1, 2012
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m
Main Library Auditorium, 300 North Roxboro Street, Durham, NC

Understanding the Gifted Child:  Overexcitabilities, Intensities, and Vulnerabilities
Dr. Richard Courtright, Gifted Education Research Specialist, Duke University Talent Identification Program

Thirty years of working with gifted students in Duke TIP summer programs has provided evidence of the nature of the characteristics of gifted/talented students.  While individual differences (and exceptions to the rule) abound, there are strong tendencies among gifted kids regarding their social and emotional development that can help parents and teachers understand the responses they receive from gifted children.

Introductory Comments, Dr. Kristen Stephens, Duke University and President, North Carolina Association for the Gifted and Talented

Door Prizes and Closing Comments, Connie Vance, President, Durham PAGE

To register, use the mail-in form on the flyer OR send an email to with Parent Information Session in the subject line.  Include the following:
Number of participants

Spanish Flyer

English Flyer

Monday, April 16, 2012

Web resource of the Week--SENG

After a short spring break hiatus, we are back with more resources for you.  Each week, we plan to bring you a web resource that we have found has been helpful to parents.  SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) is a non‐profit organization that cares and advocates for the unique social emotional needs of gifted children and their families.  Their mission is to provide support for families and empower parents and professionals to understand and support gifted children.  Many families find it difficult to find support for the challenges they face in a world where some may assume that a gifted child has it made and doesn't need as much support.

Their website has a free resource library, articles and a recommended reading list. You will also notice that they have seminars--the seminar coming up on April 19th is Teaching Academics to Gifted Youth with Asperger's.   The seminars are typically available for a fee.  SENG also has a commitment to promoting gifted education and support for students with diverse backgrounds who are often underserved.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Relaunched Government Website focuses on Bullying

This new Stop Bullying website emphasizes action steps individuals can take to prevent and stop bullying in their schools and communities. It also features tools and resources for community members, young people and families, including:
  • How to recognize the warning signs and when to take action
  • Tips to prevent bullying before it starts
  • How to implement strategies for intervention
  • Ways to share your community’s resources, policies or strategies to prevent and address bullying
  • Information on bullying laws in your state
  • Videos and other information targeted for kids, including a few videos for younger children (click the Kids link)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

NC Pre-K in Durham Deadline Friday, April 6

Last July, the North Carolina General Assembly moved the More at Four Pre-Kindergarten Program to the Division of Child Development and Early Education in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and renamed it the NC Pre-Kindergarten Program (NC Pre-K).

The NC Pre-K Program (formerly More at Four) is designed to provide high-quality educational experiences to enhance school readiness for eligible four-year-olds. In Durham, Pre-K is provided through Durham County's, NC Pre-K Program, Head Start, and  Durham Public Schools.  The deadline to apply for the 2012-2013 is this Friday, April 6th.  This is important for families who might have a 4-year-old who may be eligible.  The program is free for those who qualify.

Check out the flyer below for information about how to apply.  Call 919-403-6950 x6820 with questions.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Speaker on ADHD on April 5th: Your Child and ADHD

Thursday, April 5th from 6:00 – 8:00

Your Child and ADHD

Presenter: Dr. Kevin Metz, Lepage and Associates
For more information on Dr. Kevin Metz and Lepage and Associates please visit:

Location: Grey Stone Baptist Church - Family Life Center on 15th Street (behind the church) at 2601 Hillsborough Rd., Durham

This speaker is part of "Let’s Connect" for families of children who have special needs sponsored by the Family Support Network of North Central NC. Parents/caregivers can come together to share ideas and strategies with each other. Any parent or caregiver of a child with special needs is welcome to attend.

Spanish Interpretation will be available. A light dinner will be available beginning at 5:45.

Please RSVP to Beth Hutson (contact info below). Registration is required for childcare (limited space). Please let Beth know if you have a specific question that you would like to have addressed.
Beth Hutson, Program Coordinator
Family Support Network of North Central NC
Phone: 919-560-3000

Thursday, March 22, 2012

4-H Summer Camp Opportunities for kids and high school youth

Durham County Cooperative Extension's 4-H program has released its summer camp brochure.  There are camps for kids of all ages, including teens.   Spaces are limited. Unless otherwise indicated, camps meet at Cooperative Extension at 721 Foster Street (Downtown--same street at Farmers Market across from Central Park School).  There are a range of price ranges, some are incredibly reasonable.  Lots of folks ask why the rates are so low.  This has to do with the mission of Cooperative Extension and 4-H.  Camp is considered a service to the community and we only charge what we need to cover costs.

There is also a weeklong overnight camp option at one of the 4-H camp centers in late June.  This is a discounted rate and Durham 4-H provides transportation and sends one of our local adult 4-H staffers along, so it is a nice opportunity for a kid to go with a group and have a supportive adult available.

Check it out....

Friday, March 9, 2012

Teen Leadership Conference During the April Spring Break

Durham Parks and Recreation is hosting a Teen Leadership Conference for young people, ages 13-17 over Spring Break, April 9-13, at Edison Johnson Recreation Center.  Teens must apply and have a recommendation from their school or other organization in order to be considered for particpation.

Students will have the opportunity to visit the State Capitol and do a ropes course in addition to being exposed to interactive workshops and activities to help them build their leadership skills.  Check out the flyer and form below.  Contact Cory Rawlinson at 560-4270 for more information.  The deadline is March 16.

Leadership Conference Flyer

Leadership Conference Recommendation Form

Thursday, March 8, 2012

DPS Kitchen Table Conversations on Magnet Schools

Durham Public Schools has planned a series of four Kitchen Table Conversations in an effort to enhance our school district’s magnet schools.   The discussion at these sessions will focus on magnet schools and student assignment. Dicussions around magnet schools and choice have dominated a great deal of the public conversation about our public schools this year following the magnet plan presented at the end of 2011, which was largely scrapped following significant public pressure. Your input, as part of the Durham community, whether you are a parent, teacher, or neighbor, is essential to these discussions.  Please make time to attend one of these sessions. 
There is also a link to submit your ideas/opinions/concerns directly to DPS without attending a conversation.  However, I hope many community members will choose to attend and participate in constructive dialogue at each session.

Here are the dates and locations
Tuesday, March 13, 6 pm at Southern High School (800 Clayton Rd)
Thursday, March 15, 6 pm at Northern School (117 Tom Wilkinson Rd)
Tuesday, March 20, 6 pm at Jordan High School (6806 Garrett Rd)
Saturday, March 31, 10 am at the Staff Development Center (2107 Hillandale Rd)

Please RSVP online at Child care will not be provided.

Here is the link to the info on the DPS website:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Transition Fair for High School Students with Special Needs March 10th

Making the transition from high school to work and college can be challenging for any student.  For students with special needs, there is additional support needed and a variety of services designed to help those students and families.

DPS Programs for Exceptional Children will be hosting a Transition Fair on March 10, 2012 at the Staff Development Center at 2107 Hillandale Road.  The Transition Fair will provide students and their families with an opportunity to meet with representatives from a variety of adult service providers and local college disability offices to gather needed information as they prepare for life after high school.  In addition to having agency displays, DPS will host training and informational sessions for parents and students on a variety of transition-related topics.  Contact Sarah Laughhunn, DPS Transition Specialist at 919-560-2689 for more information.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Stewards of Children Prevention Training available in Durham

On March 16th, adults can make a difference in the lives of children by taking Stewards of Children Training through Durham's Child S.A.F.E. from 2:00-5:00 at the Durham Center at 414 E. Main Street.  Stewards of Children is an evidence-based prevention training program that teaches adults how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.   I have taken this training myself and found it completely enlightening in my role as a parent, as a community advocate, and someone who works in an organization that also serves children and youth.  I highly recommend it to every adult and parents with children at any age.  I really knew very little about this topic and recent news events remind us that most of us simply don't know enough.
The statistics are shocking with 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experiencing some form of sexual abuse by the age of 18.  Stewards of Children is for anyone who wants to make a difference in their community by educating themselves about the protection of children.  
You will see the contact information for registration and details at the link below.  This is also a training that can be offered to adults in the community, at your school or church on request.  Nancy Kent’s contact information is on the flyer if you are interested in bringing the training to a group you are involved with.
Here is the flyer to learn more....

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Budget Time Comes to Durham

It is time for the annual discussion and debate around the DPS budget.  What do we know?  We know that we face yet another year of shrinking resources and great demands on our local system.  Durham Public Schools launched their 2012-2013 Budget Page on their website:

You will see several documents, including one called Transportation Savings Suggestions and another with budget suggestions.  We will write more about this in the next few weeks.  Some of the transportation suggestions emerged during a portion of the conversation around magnet schools, so some may be familiar. There will certainly be additional information posted on the budget site in the weeks to come.

You are asked to give input into the budget process.  There is form for budget suggestions on the page at  You will also see some budget cutting suggestions listed on the website.   It will be important for parents and community members to get involved and share what is most important to you.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Summer Camp for Kids with Special Needs

February starts the long process of figuring out summer camps for many families.  For families with children with special needs, determining the best camp experience for your child is sometimes a bit more difficult.  On March 1st from 5:30-8:00PM there will be a special presentation on inclusive summer camps.  This program is sponsored by the Family Support Network and Durham's Local Interagency Coordinating Council at Greystone Baptist Church, 2601 Hillsborough Road.  A light dinner and childcare are provided.  They ask that you register.  You can do this by contacting Beth Hutson at 560-3000 or

Here's a flyer about the event...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

NC High School Accountability Testing Changing in 2011-2012

In talking with parents, we have found that many are unaware of the changes to the accountability and testing systems for high school students in North Carolina.  Some are aware that the state eliminated many End-of-Course (EOC) tests last year, leaving English I, Algebra I, and Biology as the only EOC tests that high school students take.  What many don't know is that the state is piloting the use of the ACT, PLAN, and WorkKeys tests for high school students this year.  Next year, 2012-2013, these tests will become part of the North Carolina Accountability system. 

The PLAN will be given to all 10th grade students and is supposed to assess students' current academic development and help plan for the remainder of high school.  Parents may be familiar with ACT as one of the primary college entrance tests; this will be given free of charge to all 11th grade students.  It is designed to assess student skills in English, math, science, and reading.  Both of these tests are connected to the Common Core standards being adopted by NC and 44 other states plus the District of Columbia.  WorkKeys will be given to students in career/technical training in the 12th grade to assess work skills and readiness. 

These tests are expected to provide additional information about how well schools are educating students and to address gaps for students in terms of what they still need to learn. They are planned to be used for assessment and accountability, but will not be part of a grade or an exit requirement for high school.

Here is a synopsis of the change in a pdf format.

And a comprehensive website including resources for parents. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Youth Legislative Assembly Opportunity for Youth--Applications due 2/23

The Youth Legislative Assembly (YLA) is now accepting applications. YLA is a mock legislative session where high school students voice their opinions and vote on issues concerning local, state and national government. The three-day session is patterned after the N.C. General Assembly. The 42nd session of the Youth Legislative Assembly will be held March 23-25, 2012. Application deadline is February 23, 2012.  Individual students can attend and groups can attend with a chaperone.  There is a cost and scholarships are available.  See the application package at the link below.
YLA 2011

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sensory Friendly Films for Durham Students....Next one on 2/18

Northgate Stadium 10 Theater and the DPS Exceptional Children's Department have teamed up to present a monthly series of "Sensory Friendly"  films at the theater.  These films are for any child who has a difficult time attending a traditional movie theater show because of the noise or lighting.  For these films, the lights are on at a low level and the noise is turned down.

February's Sensory Friendly Film will be Big Miracle  on Saturday, Feb. 18th at 10:00AM at Stadium 10 at Northgate
The cost is $5.50 for package (ticket, popcorn and drink) OR $4.00 for film only, cash only.

Please call Karen Carr at 560-2881 for more information. If you would like to know more about this film series and  check out future dates, go to:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DPS Lottery Applications are Due Friday, February 17th

Durham Public Schools wraps up the application period for magnet and year-round schools this Friday, February 17th.  If you are planning to apply, your application must be submitted online or in-person to the Office of Student Assignment by 5pm.  You can submit BOTH a year-round and a magnet application.  Here are the applications and info online:

A few of my favorite tips for navigating the choice/lottery landscape:
  1. If you are satisfied with your existing school options, don't feel like like you have to apply because everyone else is.  Choice doesn't necessarily mean a school is better.
  2. Know the needs of your child and family.  A school may have a great reputation, but may not quite fit your child or family.  It may not be the best choice for you, even if it is for someone else.
  3. The DPS lottery looks at 1st choice selections first, so what you put first is most important.  For some schools, a second choice may not give you much chance, if any, of getting your selection.
If you are thinking about applying for a public charter school, their deadlines vary, so you need to check with the specific school you are considering as soon as possible.  I have noticed application deadlines ranging from various dates in February through April. 

If you are really struggling with these decisions or the process, please call us at 560-0538 for a parent coaching session and we can help you work through this process and your concerns.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Special Opportunity for 4th to 6th grade Girls at Duke on February 18th

There is a great free opportunity for Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Durham Girls to participate in the capstone event of  Duke's FEMMES (Females Excelling More in Math Engineering and Science)  program on Saturday, February 18th.  FEMMES is a free one-day outreach program introducing young women from Durham (4th through 6th grade) to math, science and engineering.  The registration period has been extended and there are more spaces for girls to participate.
The goal of FEMMES (Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and Science) is to give girls hands-on experience in the math, science, and engineering fields where women are often greatly under-represented. By using female volunteers and faculty members, FEMMES hopes to demonstrate that women can and do excel in these fields. Each faculty volunteer directs a hands-on activity that shows something interesting and fun about their area of expertise (for a list of this year’s faculty volunteers and their activities, please visit the “Faculty” link). Student volunteers lead groups to the activities and act as mentors for the day to our program’s participants.  The events take place on the campus of Duke University and include lunch.
They have extended their registration deadline from the February 8th deadline marked on the forms due to available spots.  Here are the registration forms in English and Spanish:

FEMMES Registration English

FEMMES Registration Spanish

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Free Opportunity to Visit Durham Museum of Life and Science

This Sunday February 12 is Durham Appreciation Day--a free opportunity to visit the Museuem of Life and Science!

On this day the Museum invites Durham residents to visit the Museum. No admission fee; please consider a donation! Experience the tropics in the Magic Wings Butterfly House, go back in time on the Dinosaur Trail and fossil dig site, explore new exhibits and visit old favorites. Bring the whole family.
For free admission on February 12, please bring ID (drivers license or utility bill) that shows Durham County residency.  For more information, call 919.220.5429

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

PFAST & LPFAST Help Parents Navigate the Public Schools-Starts February 7th

Starting Tuesday, February 7th , we will offer our popular Parent & Family Advocacy and Support Training Series (PFAST) and Latino PFAST (LPFAST in Spanish) series for parents who want to better understand how to navigate the public school system to help their children succeed.  There are English and Spanish sessions starting on the 7th .  This is a helpful workshop series for parents, grandparents, foster parents, guardians, and anyone else interested in building  positive relationships with their schools.  We also have many professionals who want to learn more about schools take the training as well. Find the flyer and registration form at

PFAST and LPFAST takes place on six Tuesdays, February 7, 14, 21, 28, & March 6 & 13 here at Durham Cooperative Extension, 721 Foster Street from 6:00-8:00PM.  Dinner and childcare are included.  Facilitators for the Spanish sessions are bilingual.  Please Spread the word to parents and others who would be interested.

Topics covered include:

o   Parent Involvement and Advocacy
o   Building a Positive Parent – School Relationship
o   School Choice and School Lotteries
o   NC Standards and No Child Left Behind
o   Improving Parent-School Communication
o   Maximizing Parent-Teacher Conferences
o   Testing / EOGs & EOCs
o   High School Requirements
o   Exceptional Children’s Programs
o   Gifted Education /AIG Programs

The first half of the school just ended.  This is perfect time for families to get better informed and equipped to make the rest of the school year a success.  Please share with those you know who might be interested.   

Friday, January 20, 2012

DPS Magnet Fair this Saturday, January 21st

It is the time of year in Durham when families have the opportunity to take a closer look at their choices for public schools.  The choices can seem overwhelming.  There is a lot of information available to help families make decisions.  DPS highlights magnet and year round schools at the annual DPS Magnet Fair this Saturday, January 21 at Hillside High School.

From 9-12noon, visit all elementary magnet and year round schols
From 2-5, visit with ALL middle and high schools.

2012-13 DPS Lottery Applications can be submitted Saturday, January 21 - Friday, February 17

Check out lots of information about Magnet and year-round schools at the DPS choice website.  You can find applications and information about open house opportunities.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Facilitator Training for PFAST and LPFAST Parent Advocacy

We have some spaces remaining in our PFAST facilitator training starting next week…… Cooperative Extension is hosting a special training for individuals interested in facilitating or co-facilitating our popular  PFAST or LPFAST trainings.   We  welcome parents, community volunteers, educators and other professionals with an interest in parent advocacy and education.  There is a particular need of folks who are bilingual in Spanish and English to support Latino parents.  Check out the details at the flyer links below.

As you may know, Parent & Family Advocacy and Support Training (PFAST) and Latino PFAST (LPFAST in Spanish) are a six session series of workshops designed to help parents and other caring adults better navigate our public schools (including charter) to help their children succeed.   

Here are the two options— EveningTuesdays, January 24 AND January 31, 5:30-8:30PM  OR Daytime—Thursdays, January 26 AND February 2, 9:00AM-12:00PM.

The flyer 
The registration form

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rethinking the role of praise in student learning

This is an interesting Washington Post article about the effects of praise and self-esteem building on students and learning. There is a more scientific and precise approach to praise shared here.  The article reminds me of a lecture I heard from a gifted education specialist a few years ago who talked about the importance of praising effort and the process of learning versus praising the results.  The outcome, to this speaker, was that students who are primarily praised for results or for 'being smart', sometimes through quick and less than thoughtful work, end up without a solid work ethic and and little emphasis on the process of learning, which would serve them better in the long run.  This article cites research from Carol Dweck at Stanford at how our focus on self-esteem has backfired.  I've also attached a second article from the Wall Street Journal a few years back.  See what you think.

In schools, self-esteem boosting is losing favor to rigor, finer-tuned praise

The Praise a Child Should Never Hear

Friday, January 13, 2012

DPS SAT Prep Classes and online resources

If you know a student who needs help preparing for the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Tests) DPS has two more SAT prep classes coming.  The deadlines are January 20 and 26, so students need to sign up now.  To learn more check out the brochure here at .

There are also links for free online resources on the DPS website too.  There are some really good ones.

Common Core Standards Coming to NC!

You may be aware of the changes to our state standards coming in 2012-2013 School Year.  NC is one of more than 40 states who have signed onto the Common Core State Standards Inititiave.  This initiative brings the same standards to each state in  language arts and math for K-12.  These standards are considered more rigorous and more connected to real life skills and prepping students for the future.  You can look at the new standards for yourself at .  The core standards will bring changes to the classroom and testing content, so keep your ears and eyes open.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


This Blog is for Parents and Grandparents of Children and Youth in Durham's Public Schools with news, tips, and resources from Durham County Cooperative Extension's Strengthening Families Coalition--the folks that bring your the popular PFAST parent advocacy program.  We will post information that is timely and relevant for parents navigating our education system with the goal of improving the success of all children and building positive relationships with our schools. 

Plese note, when we say "parents," we include all adults (guardians, aunts & uncles, etc.) that have a significant role in the life of a child.