So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Three ways to super-charge holiday singing with your kids

Alex Pitt/For The Music Center

Singers take part in the Music Center's annual holiday sing-along in downtown Los Angeles.

If you find yourself sprinting for the nearest exit every time you hear Bing Cosby's "White Christmas," we've got some news that might stop you in mid-stride: holiday songs can be good for your kids. 

Whether participating in organized sing-alongs and or spontaneous warbling to piped-in music in the mall, young children register real gains from singing, experts say. 

Here are three suggestions from Susan Canizares, the chief academic officer at child care provider Learning Care Group, on how to help your young kids learn as they sing along. She says these principals work best for kids age 0 to five years:

  • Singing with your toddlers will help improve their reading skills. "There are a whole bunch of prerequisite, early literacy skills that need to be developed in the preschool and pre-kindergarten years, and one of the best ways to do that is through children having fun singing," Canizares says. This process allows children to play and hear the sounds of language — an important step in building strong readers. 
  • Allow your young kids to sing songs over and over and over again. Even if it drives you batty, the process of practicing and repeating songs helps kids learn. Canizares says this type of exposure to language is key when kids develop the ability to match written letters with sounds and later to read. "By singing those songs over and over again, they're beginning to listen to the different sounds that are in words," she says.
  • Let your kids make up words to the songs. Once your kids have mastered their favorite songs, Canizares suggests encouraging their imaginations to run wild. Let them incorporate new phrases or words into a tune they know well. This sort of playful experience with language will help improve their reading skills later on. The goal is to expose your young kids to as much language as possible. Research shows this exposure affects literacy rates as they grow.   

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UCLA professors force vote on diversity class requirement

Proposed Budget Cuts Threaten Funding For California Universities

David McNew/Getty Images

Students go about their business at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

A diversity class approved by UCLA's Academic Senate is now on hold after dozens of professors signed and submitted a petition on Dec. 11 calling for a campus vote of all faculty members.

Under the diversity requirement, undergraduates enrolled in the fall of 2015 were expected to complete a class that would teach them to understand the perspectives of other people whose views, backgrounds, and experiences may differ from their own.

The goal is to promote a "better understanding of and appreciation for the complex differences they will encounter both in the United States and around the world so that they may thrive, function and lead in today’s and tomorrow’s world,” according to a description provided by supporters of the requirement.

Opposition came from 59 UCLA professors who signed a petition asking for another vote that would be open to faculty outside the College of Letters and Sciences whose faculty had proposed the class and won its approval from the Academic Senate.

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Students' active engagement in music classes leads to brain gains, study finds

Annie Tritt for NPR

File: A new study finds students who study music by playing instruments show significant improvement in speech processing and reading scores.

Brain researchers are finding increasing evidence that music is a powerful learning tool.

A new study out Tuesday concludes students highly engaged in music classes boosted their reading scores and speech processing skills.

“Our results support the importance of active experience and meaningful engagement with sound to stimulate changes in the brain,” according to Nina Kraus, who heads the Auditory Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern University.

RELATED: Music and your brain – the science of change

Kraus is the lead author on the study that stems from a multi-year research effort with the Los Angeles music education nonprofit Harmony Project. The study is published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychology.

The results show the method used to study music can play a big role in gains in brain functioning. For example, Kraus found playing an instrument improved neural processing. Kids who simply took classes that focused on music appreciation without practice time with instruments didn't show the same level of improvement.

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LAUSD superintendent seeks state testing relief

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Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Dozens of schools across LAUSD have iPads, but Superintendent Ramon Cortines said students need more practice before high-stakes testing in the spring.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines is asking state officials to hold off on using test scores to measure improvement for the second year in a row.

"We do not feel that our students have had adequate time practicing on the testing devices," Cortines said in a letter Friday to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. 

Students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 are scheduled to take the tests in the spring on newly issued tablets and laptops.

Under Cortines' request, first reported by LA School Report, scores would still be delivered to students, parents and schools, but would not be counted toward schools' Academic Performance Index, the measure by which California schools' determine improvement on tests.

Keric Ashley, an administrator at the California Department of Education, said the state board has the authority to set aside API scores and plans to take up the issue at its January meeting.

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After years with no arts classes, Compton elementary readies a holiday concert

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

First-graders Valeria Beltran, left, and Jarret Moore take part in a music class at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014. The class is supported by Turnaround Arts, a national program that brings arts education to high-poverty elementary and middle schools.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Music teacher Jennifer Carreras leads a song at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Fourth-grader Pedro Herrera plays "Linus and Lucy" from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on the recorder during a music class at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Fourth-graders practice "Este Es La Navidad" for their upcoming holiday performance at Martin Luther King Elementary Jr. School in Compton.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

First-grader Valeria Beltran sings during a music class at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Fourth-graders Jennifer Moncada, left, and Josephine Moreno hug after Moreno is chosen to try out to perform at school district offices. The students take a music class once a week at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Fourth-graders practice "Este Es La Navidad" for their upcoming holiday performance at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

First-graders Sherlyn Asuna, left, and Jaden Armstrong practice a holiday song at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton.

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Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Music teacher Jennifer Carreras leads a song at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014.


Students and teachers at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Compton are busy preparing for a winter concert that elsewhere might pass with scant notice.

For King Elementary, the concert is both their first full performance at a school where nearly all students come from low-income families and a sign that a program designed to turn schools around through music and the arts may be taking hold.

This year marked the first time for arts classes at King Elementary, a development made possible with funding help from Turnaround Arts — a national initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Turnaround Arts is supporting 10 of California's struggling schools over three years with the goal of  improving their academic performance by way of the arts. 

On a recent Friday afternoon, a few dozen 6th-graders at King Elementary sat perched in rows of chairs listening to their teacher's instructions. In their hands were shiny violins.

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