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Why excellent study habits should be imparted as early as possible.


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Between the ages of 5 and 18, when a child starts kindergarten and finishes 12th grade, their main concern should be school and their studies. In fact, many parents compare school to a job and tell their children that, since it’s the only job that they have, they should put in as much effort to do it as well as they possibly can.

If you subscribe to this theory then it only makes sense that, in order to be successful at their ‘job’, your children be taught the best way to perform it.

Just like a doctor should know the most accurate way to diagnose their patient, a carpenter the most precise way to build a house and a florist the most beautiful way to arrange flowers, a child needs to know the most successful way to learn their school subjects. With this in mind it only makes sense that acquiring and using excellent study habits be the goal of any child (and their parents).

The sad fact however is that most students are never taught how to be excellent students. Yes, we are taught the basics of how to read, how to write and all of the other subjects that are necessary to move from one grade to the next but, as far as exactly how to study, when to study, where to study (and good study habits in general), these vital and valuable skills are simply left to chance.

Let’s take the analogy of the carpenter as an example. The average person would quickly learn that the frame of a house is made with wood, that wood can be fastened together with nails and that, once fastened, this wood and nails can form the frame of the house. The fact is however that, unless a person is shown specifically how to attach the wood and nails together, building the frame of a house would be nearly impossible even with the best wood, nails and a good hammer unless the carpenter was shown how to do it correctly.

The same can be said for a student.  Teaching them their ABCs, how to add and subtract and all of the other basics is a great start but, unless they are taught how to study new material as it’s presented, the frame of their education is going to be weak and unstable.

That’s why, even from their earliest school days, every student should be shown not only the basic building blocks of education but, more importantly, how to actually sit down and digest that information on a daily, regular basis.

Practice makes perfect and, if you’d like a student to be as close to perfect as possible, they need to be shown how to study at the start of their school career and regularly thereafter. Here are a couple key points to consider when practicing ones studies:

  • Routine: Routines are very effective, especially with younger children. Homework time should start the same time every day regardless of how much homework came home. It may be at a set time, or correspond to an event like the end of dinner. The more routine it is, the less negotiable it is, and thus less ‘discussion’ is involved.
  • Location: No Distractions! The TV needs to be off, cellphones ditto, and computers should be quietly out of reach. We usually suggest the kitchen table. Kids usually discover that homework goes faster, and is “easier” when done at the kitchen table with the TV off.
  • Organization: Keeping things organized is easy when they’re young, and that’s OK. But, as kids get older they NEED to increase the amount of energy spent keeping things organized. The single folder that takes homework back and forth to school for an elementary student becomes a binder in middle school and should become multiple binders for high school students. Organization will help prevent missing and late homework and, believe it or not, help kids keep the information organized in their head. Organizing their binders can be a tactile reinforcement method to help students keep the concepts organized in their mind. Though shuffling papers alone won’t help junior get ready for his exam.

In the end, studying is to education as using a hammer and nails is to carpentry; the more it’s done, the better the result.

How to use your SAT or ACT scores to help you get into college


For most students, thoughts and plans for higher education only begin as high school graduation nears in 12th grade. But as the competition to get into grows more fierce with every year, it’s important for students to make plans sooner rather than later. Wait too long and your spot at the college of your choice just may go to your neighbor in Chemistry class. If students want a competitive edge in today’s market, it’s critical to consider college placement exams such as the SAT and ACT well before your Senior year of high school.

Start by researching your school of choice to see which test is preferred, and to find out about minimum scores on either test that will be accepted for incoming freshmen. Most schools will offer a sliding scale measuring college placement exam scores against your grade point average (GPA) acquired in high school. In other words, if your GPA is high, your test scores may not need to be as great. Conversely, if your GPA isn’t as strong, your test scores will need to be higher in order to pick up the slack. Knowing where you fall on the scale should allow you to set goals for a minimum score needed on the placement exam.

If your school of choice accepts both the SAT and the ACT as acceptable placement exams, consider taking both tests as part of your college preparation plans. You may find that you score higher on one test versus the other, depending on your aptitude for the various subject knowledge they measure. For example, if you excel in Science, you may fare better with the ACT which offers a Science Reasoning Exam as part of their test. If you’re stronger with reading, writing and math, you may get a better comprehensive score on the SAT which focuses on those three areas alone.

It’s also important to know the differences between the two exams if you plan to take either of them multiple times in an effort to increase your score. For the SAT test, all available scores from each of your test dates are reported to the school of your choice. You cannot select only your highest or latest scores, or individual scores from the specific subject tests on the exam. For the ACT test, a separate record for each test date is maintained. Only the report from the test date you choose will be forwarded to the school; or you may request that multiple reports from separate test dates be sent, but you cannot mix and match your scores from the various subject tests to create a new score report.

To give yourself a better chance of increasing your scores on either exam, consider working with a private tutor. Taking sample practice tests, memorizing important concepts and mathematical formulas, and practicing your writing are all great ways to prepare for the test. A tutor can also assist with test taking strategies such as pacing, whether or not you should leave questions blank, and how to reduce test taking anxiety to ensure a successful attempt.

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Is Vocational and Technical Education the Future of Higher Ed?


Is it time to reconsider our college plans for our kids? The outlook for recent graduates has been pretty dismal. According to the New York Times, of the class of 2009 humanities majors, only 45% are employed in a job that requires any degree, and even fewer are working in the field they studied in. Even back in 2006 that number was more in the neighborhood of 90%. So the answer is to have everybody go get medical or engineering degrees, right? Well, if one is so inclined, a degree in a technical field does offer better employment opportunities, but those programs have a high wash-out rate, and admission to those programs is VERY competitive. If you don’t love engineering, you’ll have a tough time trying to get an engineering degree.

Let’s take a minute and consider the history of the college degree. Back in the early ‘70s only about 11% of the population graduated from college. The rest went into apprenticeships, trade schools, or straight into the workforce. Today roughly one in three young people will graduate with a college degree, and many of those degrees will be from lower tier colleges and/or majored in less employable areas like the humanities and the arts.  The prestige of a BA isn’t what it once used to be, as the class of 2009 can attest. What’s worse, todays graduates are coming out of school with an average of $20,000 in student debt.

So what’s the alternative? Not everybody is inclined to go get their MD, or a bachelor’s degree in science and engineering. A degree in the humanities isn’t offering the same employability it once was. Might we consider technical school? Though it carries a stigma, trade school might be a great option for many of our young people today. Instead of spending their time, and tons of money, learning Chaucer, might they be better served if allowed to learn graphic design or plumbing? Interestingly that stigma against trade school that was mentioned is an entirely American invention. 40-70% of European students end up going to either apprenticeships or trade schools.

Technical education has the advantage of being quick, many folks can complete advanced certifications that will put them at the top of their field within 2 years.  Sometimes, this will even include an associate’s degree. Thus, no need to spend 2 more years and thousands of dollars studying the literature of east asia or the history of conflict. This also leaves open the option of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the future.

Depending on your school some students can even start earning their tech credentials while still in high school. Though they’ve been much maligned and underfunded, in many parts of the country, many high schools still have a tech ed programs. They’ve even aligned them with a local community college in many cases. Often, if the student got good enough grades, a local community college will apply high school credits towards a technical degree. This makes a technical degree potentially even faster and cheaper.

But what about employability and salary you ask. First, consider this Harvard Study that says 27 percent of people with post-secondary licenses or certificates—credentials short of an associate’s degree—earn more than the average bachelor’s degree recipient. Next, consider a good benchmark, many engineering students are coming out of 4 years of school with $20,000 in debt, and will start out making $45-50K. That sounds hard to beat until you consider that the student that went to tech school an got his credentials in aircraft repair has been working as a mechanic and is making $45k, AND has spent the last two years already earning that salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for aircraft mechanics is substantially better than that of journalists or museum curators.

Likewise, the BLS’s traditionally pessimistic earnings numbers are listed below. And, each of these professions has a strong outlook for the future jobs market, something an anthropologist can’t claim.

Electrician – $44k

Plumber – $43k

Firefighter – $44k

Chef – $44k

Tool & Die Maker – $44K

Graphic Designer – $42K

Dental Hygienist – $66K

Nurse (w/ AS Degree) – $43K

Aircraft Mechanic – $45K

 

So what do you think, has the time for the technical degree come? Or, will the liberal arts degree continue to be a license to a great career?

12 Tricks to Make Your Child a Daily Reader


Daily reading is critical to a child’s academic performance.  Not all kids are thrilled to be handed a book though so here are some tips to help make reading on a daily basis more effective and something less than a daily fight.

  1. Have good reading hygiene: Turn off the TV, radio, computer, or whatever. Don’t be distracted by other things reading time is for focused reading.
  2. Read to each other: Reading time can also be good family time. Many children will enjoy having the audience as they demonstrate the skills they’ve worked so hard to learn. Do correct mistakes, but be sure not to be too critical, they should feel good about how much they’ve learned.
  3. Encourage the older children to bring favorite books and magazines along with them wherever they go. This also provides you with a great response for the timeless complaint, “Mom, I’m bored!”
  4. Bedtime can be good reading time: Many kids resist reading, but when presented as an alternative to ‘going to sleep’ many will opt to read. This is a good way to get them in bed and not moving, which is usually a precursor to sleep.
  5. Ask relatives to send young kids letters and emails: Have the kids read them out loud. Even if they’re short, this type of reinforcement can help kids cement their reading skills.
  6. Set a good example: Your kids should see you reading too. It’s hard to make a credible case to a child why reading books is a good thing if they never see you read. Countless studies have shown that parents who are passionate readers raise kids who are readers too…
  7. Schedule a family reading time: Not only does this help cover the issue above, but it’s good family time and it helps chalk up some reading time for the kids.
  8. Let Hollywood be the inspiration: Do they love a particular movie, or are excited about going to see one when it comes out? Find the book, and rejoice when they reflect as they walk out of the theatre, “The book was better”.
  9. Participate in the local library’s summer reading program: Every library in the country that we’ve seen has a summer reading program for kids. This offers the feedback and rewards needed to get many kids really reading on their own for the first time. IT even spares you from having to buy the books!
  10. Visit a comic store: Although it may not be Chaucer, comics and graphic novels can be great reading material and can offer the engagement that visual learners need.  Over the summer you might even try and coax your comic oriented child into writing his or her own comics.
  11. Read cookbooks: Again the visual learners and gustatory  oriented kids will enjoy the pictures in cooking magazines and cookbooks and may enjoy trying some new recipe. This also helps children relate to reading as a real world skill. And, NOTHING motivates reading like the promise of a dozen fresh baked cookies upon completion.
  12. Get a magazine subscription: Got an animal fan? Try Zoonooz from the San Diego Zoo. Young boys might well get into Sports Illistrated for Kids. For any topic out there that might get your children excited there is a magazine.

Guest Blogging: Check out the article we wrote for The Mom Blog


Neat article on the merits of in home tutoring http://bit.ly/sCYQpM

Do you have a future Mark Zuckerberg in your class?


RT @edweekteacher: Do you have a future Mark Zuckerberg in your class? Check out these tips on meeting the needs of gifted students: http://bit.ly/vIrtfi

How are you going to pay for college?


As winter approaches high school seniors are thinking about college. Should I take a SAT prep course, and re-take the SAT to get a higher score? Is this essay good enough? When should I do an on campus interview? Can I get accepted into that college? When I get accepted, can I even afford to go to school X?

Today, we’ll address this last concern; paying for college is no small feat.  With tuition, room, and board running anywhere from $10,000 per year to $50,000+, money is not merely an academic discussion when it comes to college. Every student needs to have a realistic idea of how they’ll pay for college and how they’ll eventually pay back the loans they’ll probably have to take out.

The Federal Government:

The biggest source of funding for school is the federal government.  They have a standardized process for reviewing a candidate’s financial needs, and making available loans and grants for college.  The standard form is the Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA). This application needs to be filled out by at least the end of June, but you’ll want to fill it out MUCH earlier. Check with the financial aid department at your school of choice to learn about their timeline for student aid applications. Usually you’ll submit your FAFSA before or around the same time you submit your applications to schools.

To be eligible you must:

  • Be a US Citizen
  • Have a valid social security card
  • Maintain a satisfactory GPA
  • Show you’re qualified to attend college (i.e. Have a GED, or High School Diploma)
  • Men between the age of 18 and 25 must be registered with the Selective Service

There are several different types of money available to you from the federal government:

  • Grants—student aid funds that do not have to be repaid.
  • Work-Study—a part-time work program to earn money while you are in school.
  • Federal Loans—student aid funds that you must repay with interest.

There are also different types of federal student loans:

Does all of this sound complicated?… well… it is. The good news is that the professionals in the financial aid department of your schools of choice will be happy to talk you through it, and are a great resource that you SHOULD take advantage of.  You’ll also find your high school counselor can make a wealth of resources available to you. They know of many local private and public scholarships that you may be eligible for. They are also very familiar with the financial aid process.

To start out, you can fill our your FAFSA online. Here’s a list of all the documents you’ll potentially need, alas, it’s not a short list. We’d advise talking to your guidance counselor, and a school or two before undertaking the effort to fill out the FAFSA. You want to be sure to get it right, and get it in on time. You can also get free help from the U.S. Department of Education at www.fafsa.gov (online chat is also available), or call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243).

Other sources of FREE information on the federal  aid process include your state higher education agency and the reference section of the local library. Entire books have been written on this process.

Private Student Loans:

Once you’ve filed for federal funds, we need to talk about private loans. Many students will also need to take out a normal student loan with a bank. Be careful in this process, and again be ready to talk it over with the college of your choice before committing to anything. We do NOT recommend using a fee based private loan service, as there are plenty of free resources out there to help you find private loans.

In the case of loans, keep in mind that the whatever amount you borrow you must be pay back with interest. While loans can be a good investment in your future, taking out a federal or private student loan is a serious obligation.

Scholarships:

OK, you filled out your FAFSA, and you know how much you could get in loans. But, you would certainly rather avoid incurring more debt than is necessary to go to college. This is where scholarships come in. Scholarships are private grants that you can earn depending on a number of factors. There are scholarships out there for every ethnicity, for every age range, and for any line of work (or parents line of work) you can imagine. Your high school counselor is again a great resource to help you find some appropriate scholarships. Once you’ve talked to your counselor, we’d advise going to www.fastweb.com. It is a great online resource to help find some of those more obscure scholarships out there (i.e did you know there was a scholarship out there for second generation Serbian cabinet makers?).  We do NOT recommend using any private fee-based scholarship finding services, there are just too many good free resources out there.

Here are just a few of the free resources:

  • Your high school guidance counselor
  • The local library reference section
  • FREE online scholarship searches (www.fastweb.com)
  • Foundations, and religious or community organizations
  • Ethnicity-based organizations
  • Your employer, or your parents’ employer

Finding the right school and funding a degree program can be a challenging process. Once they’ve got the complete picture though, any high school senior and their family can make an appropriate decision about where they can attend versus where they want to attend. It’s a lot of work and a tough choice, but with so many great sources of funding available, most qualified students can find the financing to attend college.

Which Greensboro Area College is Right for You?


Aaah, the start of the school year, so full of potential! 6th graders looking forward to meeting new friends, 4th graders looking forward to learning fractions (it could happen), Juniors looking forward to driving to school, and seniors considering the possibility of that whole new world of college.  That last bit is what catches my mind this fine morning.

Guilford County seniors are starting to think about college and consider their options. So we did a little bit of homework to help them out. Below are the schools Greensboro area grads frequently attend, along with some of the key statistics that go along with them. This list is by no means exhaustive, so don’t get upset, our alma maters aren’t on the list either. And this is in NO PARTICULAR ORDER.

Greensboro College Chart

Let me explain:

GPA: This is weighted GPA, if we couldn’t find weighted GPA, or we are unsure what the school was reporting, we didn’t list it. Keep in mind, that for weighted GPA’s, getting a B in an AP course earns you more than a B in a regular course, so choose your courses carefully.

Average SAT and ACT: This is roughly the average score of the students admitted to the various schools. If your scores aren’t quite up to par, try taking a good SAT prep course. Most courses can give you a point bump, depending on how much work you put in to it after class. Many students do better on the ACT than the SAT, and that nearly every school in the country will take an ACT score in lieu of an SAT score. This is why we’d recommend that all students take both exams and submit the better of the two scores to their schools.  Please note these are the 50% or median scores, NOT the minimum scores, so getting a 1700 doesn’t prevent you from getting admitted to NC State or Appalachian. Nor does getting an 1800 guarantee you a spot at either.  Pretty much all schools, require you to take the SAT OR the ACT, with Wake Forest as more of the exception than the rule.  So if college is in your future, so is a standardized test.

Tuition: An estimate of room, board, and tuition for and NC resident  to live on campus and attend the school in question for one year.

% of Students Admitted: Of all the students applying, what % gets admitted to this school.  The lower this number, the stronger your application will need to be and the more you’ll want to exceed the averages for that school.

Deadline: The last day you could submit an application to be admitted next fall. Please note these dates may be subject to change, this might be LAST years date, we’re going with what the school has on their website as of writing. You have until early spring to apply to most schools, but PLEASE don’t wait until the 11th hour. All else being equal, schools prefer to see proactive students who submit their applications early. Besides, most schools have an early admissions process that allows you to submit early, and get your response early. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to live on pins and needles until spring? Apply early, really.

Conclusions:

Local high school seniors can use this information to calibrate their plans. Schools don’t make a decision based on only one factor, but a weak test score or GPA is a detriment that will need to be countered elsewhere on your application. Remember, averages are only averages, half the students admitted have numbers below the average, so don’t abandon all hope if one of your numbers is a bit low.

If your GPA isn’t quite what you’d like, you might be well off to consider spending some time preparing to get a great score on the SAT and/or ACT. Again, most students would be better off taking BOTH tests. The SAT tends to focus more on critical thinking, while the ACT tends to focus more on knowledge levels. So most students naturally will do better on one than the other. And, most schools in the Greensboro area will take either exam; use that to your advantage.

On the tuition front, it might be a good time to consider funding. We’ll discuss funding shortly in another article, but scholarships and student loans are available. Parents and students would benefit from a brief frank discussion of how much help parents can offer a student going off to college.

For those earlier in your academic career, please give this a look as you consider your future. A little extra effort put in to make sure you have a strong GPA can go a long way to making college applications less stressful. Likewise, there are great tutors in Greensboro that would be happy to help you bolster your GPA and test scores. This is really one of those areas where an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

Want to know the numbers for a school you don’t see here? Google them! Every school has tons of data on the web for prospective students. If the school is being a bit shy about its numbers, try collegeapps.about.com, this was one of the sources for this article, when the college filed its numbers somewhere we couldn’t find on its website.

See for yourself:

UNC-Chapel Hill
NC State
Appalachian State U
NC A&T
UNC-Charlotte
UNC-Greensboro
Duke University
Wake Forest University

5 Tips for Connecting with Your Child’s Classroom


By Rachael McGoldrick

Back-to-school is right around the corner, so I’ve put together a short list of tips for staying connected to your child’s classroom this year.

1. Attend Early Meetings
The most important information you need to know to navigate successfully through the school year is usually shared at the beginning of the year. Plan to attend all open houses, parent nights, etc. If you cannot make one, send a reliable sub who will take notes on items such as how the teacher prefers to communicate as well as her contact information, what materials students need, and information about student expectations. Collect all important paperwork from these early meetings and keep it handy in a file, folder, etc.

2. Set Up An E-mail Account
Although you should always use the teacher’s preferred method of communication, most teachers do prefer to communicate via e-mail. It is an effective way to reach parents quickly. Teachers are usually required to check their e-mail accounts throughout the day in order to receive correspondences from their principals, etc., so they’re often able to respond to parents immediately this way. If you don’t already have an e-mail account, it is easy and free to set one up. Visit www.google.com , www.yahoo.com , or another popular search engine to get started. Once you have an e-mail account, you can be added to a list of recipients for important communications from the school and the teacher. If you do not own a home computer, keep in mind that you may be able to use a computer where you work. Also, computers are available for free use in public libraries. If you live in an apartment building, most have a business center with computers and Internet access.

3. Help Out
Find out early on how you can be helpful to the teacher throughout the year. Does she need someone to make copies every Friday afternoon? Does he need help filing students’ work every Monday morning? If you work during school hours and are unable to come to the school, projects can often be sent home with your child for you to complete. This is especially true in the primary grades, where teachers need items cut out, labeled, hole-punched, etc. The teacher will usually provide all the materials needed in a bag. She just needs your time and energy!

4. Visit the Classroom
Be present in your child’s classroom as much as possible, but within reason! Aside from providing an opportunity to assist the teacher, a visit will offer you insight into your child’s daily environment and schedule. Just as you would arrange time off from your job to schedule an important medical appointment, make it a priority to visit your child’s classroom once a quarter or once a semester. Plan to be there for a couple of hours. Coordinate your visit with being able to help in the classroom in some way, and then culminate your visit by eating lunch with your child in the cafeteria. This will make a lasting, positive impression on your child and will strengthen the cooperative connection between home and school.

5. Get Giftcards!
At the risk appearing tacky, I am including this tip because it will go a long way toward winning your child’s teacher over. Giftcards are economical, practical, and much-appreciated! If you are not the room parent, approach him/her with the idea of everyone chipping in for a holiday/end-of-the-year giftcard to a shopping center or retail store, such as Target, Walmart, etc., in lieu of purchasing individual gifts. If each family contributes $5-$10, your child’s teacher will receive a generous gift that will thrill her more than all the scented hand-sanitizing gel, chocolates, and reindeer socks that money can buy!

Have a great year!

Rachael McGoldrick is an North Carolina certified teacher with years of experience in elementary classrooms. She’s also an Enrollment Consultant for Club Z! Tutoring of Greensboro.

10 Ways Your Teacher Gave You to Prepare for the North Carolina EOC


Near the end of every school year we talk to many students about their concerns regarding the upcoming End Of Course or End Of Grade (EOC / EOG) exams here in the Greensboro area. While there certainly are plenty of tutors in Greensboro that would be happy to help make up ground, much of this need can and should be headed off with proper preparation. Speaking on behalf of many teachers, here are a few items you may (or may not) have heard them say about how to prepare for the North Carolina (or any states) EOCs.

1. Keep up with your work all semester. Time management is a critical part of study skills. Each student needs to take ownership of their own learning. Read, read, and read! Even the science and math tests are “reading” tests that require students to understand passages and convert knowledge into an answer.

2. Study every night for 15 minutes minimum. Don’t fall behind.

a. Auditory learners should read (or have read) out loud

b. Visual learners should rewrite or make notes into outline form

c. Kinesthetic learners should make flashcards to put in order, or come up with hand movements that mimic notes

d. All should use mnemonic devices and silly sayings to connect concepts. Example: Angie likes flowers…Angiosperms are flower-bearing plants.

3. Have a test? Review 30+ minutes for the 3 nights before (you were studying 15 minutes every night, right?). Don’t try a multi hour cram session. The exams the teacher gives are great preparation for the EOC as they should be highlighting the main ideas.

4. If possible, retake any exam you get a D or F on. Ask for help on the questions you still don’t understand.

a. Make corrections on all quizzes/tests so you know the correct answer.

5. Use test taking strategies for every quiz/test you take. Practice makes perfect!

a. Finding key words, highlighting, crossing off wrong answers, writing root/vocab in the margin, taking your time, breathing (find a good Study Skills course to learn about these)

6. Do your homework/projects on time…your teacher gives them for a reason.

a. The teacher may not have time to cover in class, but knows it is on the EOC.

7. Take advantage of all teacher tutoring sessions before/after school.

8. Use all free online resources that are available:

a. www.compasslearningodyssey.com (free for all Guilford students, teacher set-up)

b. www.classzone.com

c. www.hippocampus.org

d. www.studyjams.scholastic.com

e. www.ncpublicschools.org/accountability/testing/eoc/sampleitems/5 (biology)

f. www.ncpublicschools.org/accountability/testing/releasedforms

9. Start review of the oldest material at 10-12 weeks into the 18 week semester. Ask your teacher for study books or buy them at the bookstore.

10. Take a practice exam about 3 weeks before the EOC. Check the answers so that you can focus on what you don’t know as well and get extra help on those topics.

These pointers will help make sure you nail the North Carolina EOC or EOG. You’ll have noticed that most of them involve staying on top of your work, not falling behind, and asking for help when you need it. Preparation for passing your End of Course Test begins the first week of school and continues throughout the class.

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