September 30th, 2012
11:32 AM ET

Bullied Michigan teen shines as homecoming princess

By Chris Welch, CNN

West Branch, Michigan (CNN) - Whitney Kropp, the teen thrust into the spotlight after her peers nominated her for the school homecoming court as a prank, attended coronation Friday night surrounded by cheering fans.

Donning a red dress, she beamed as she clutched a bouquet of flowers.

"I had thoughts about not coming [still tonight]," the 16-year-old told reporters after halftime of the homecoming game.

"I just thought maybe I won't have fun, but ... I'm having actually a lot of fun right now."

"I'm so happy - this is so much right now for me," she added.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Bullying • Character education • High school • Practice • video
September 28th, 2012
03:23 PM ET

Pictures inspire school lunch boycott

By the Schools of Thought Editors

(CNN) New federal guidelines are requiring school lunches to be healthier, but many kids say something is missing: Quantity, and more importantly, taste.

In this video from CNN affiliate WDIV, a student's pictures of unappetizing school lunches have led to a brown bag movement in his school.

CNN Student News asked its audience of middle- and high-school students and teachers if they've noticed changes in their school lunches this year, and if those changes were for the better or worse. Here's a sampling of their responses:

Jonas: I have seen a huge difference in my school's food this year. I don't have enough food to eat and as an athlete, I need all the energy I can get. I feel sluggish and tired. I feel I was better off with the old food. Don't get me wrong, people do need to change their eating habits, but the government doesn't have to tell us how to eat.

Maddie: I completely agree with limiting school lunch calories. People are consuming calories, but not working them off. This can cause obesity... and I cringe at the percentage of American obesity be 2030.

Alivia: At our school we have to take fruit and milk even if we don't eat or drink them and just throw them away. This is partially a waste because some people just throw them away, but on the other hand it is good to tempt kids to try fruit and get that in their system for the day.

Ryan: Our school lunches have changed for the worse. Do they really think that one piece of pizza and an orange plus milk would feed us? Well it didn't feed me; I would still be hungry right after lunch was over, so now I bring my own lunch. That way I won't be starving at my football practice.

Mr. Hartrick's 2nd period class: We think that school food is not enough to eat because sometimes the school food is not very appetizing and some children will throw their food away and be hungry later. Most students bring their lunches nowadays because they don't like the food that the school serves. In a way the school is losing money because less kids are getting school food.
FULL POST

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Despite deadly risks, Afghan girls take brave first step
Children walk to school Monday in Afghanistan, where girls are often violently targeted by people who oppose their education.
September 28th, 2012
12:50 PM ET

Despite deadly risks, Afghan girls take brave first step

By Allie Torgan, CNN

(CNN) - For many girls in Afghanistan, the simple act of walking to school can be a life-threatening journey.

"You close the door behind you, and you enter a war zone," said Nushin Arbabzadah, an American-based author and scholar who was raised in Afghanistan.

There were at least 185 documented attacks on schools and hospitals in Afghanistan last year, according to the United Nations, and the majority of those attacks were attributed to armed groups opposed to educating females.

But "the walk from home to school is - and has always been - the most dangerous part," Arbabzadah said. "You are told to stay covered, keep your head down and walk quickly ... and stare at your toes."

The life of a schoolgirl in Afghanistan is a far cry from reading, writing and arithmetic. Some girls have been maimed by acid attacks. Others have had their drinking water poisoned or been targeted by bombers who think females should be forbidden from school - as they were during the Taliban's rule.

"It is unfathomable that anyone would want to hurt them. But that is the reality," said Beth Murphy, a documentary filmmaker who recently traveled to Afghanistan to work on a feature film about girls' education.

Amid the violence, however, there is promise: In a country where just 6% of women 25 and older have received any formal education, millions of girls are at long last enrolling in school.

Read the full story

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Filed under: International education • Issues
September 28th, 2012
08:35 AM ET

Teacher earns a cool million by selling lesson plans

By Martin Savidge, CNN

(CNN) - If you want to get rich, let's just say teaching is not the career.

Make that wasn't the career.

Deanna Jump is turning such thinking upside-down. A couple of weeks ago it became official for the first-grade teacher from central Georgia: She's a millionaire, and teaching got her there.

Her specialty is kindergarten and for most of her 17 years at the head of the class, she and her husband, also a teacher, struggled to pay the bills.

I dropped in on her class of 14 students at Central Fellowship Christian Academy the other day and it's hard not to get caught up in her excitement, both for teaching and success.  Like a lot of teachers I know, she's good, with a natural ability to enthuse her students about learning. She had them singing about spider anatomy. Her classroom is filled with colorful, cute displays and messages that she created to teach concepts that could be tough for anyone. For example, on the back wall, three construction paper trees stood out with red and yellow apples, each with a worm. She uses them to teach data analysis.

The goal is to make learning fun, she says. And she says every teacher does something like that.

Life changed three years ago when another teacher told Jump her stuff was so good she should share it on TeachersPayTeachers.com. The friend sent her a link, which Jump admitted just sat in her email in box for weeks. Then she tried it - and became rich.

TeachersPayTeachers was started by Paul Edelman  in 2006. As a former teacher, Edelman knew that teachers were often stretched by long hours and limited budgets, not to mention pressure to improve learning performance. They often shared ideas and teaching strategies.

Then the light bulb went off:  Why not let them make money sharing their ideas?
FULL POST

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Filed under: Lesson plans • Practice • Teachers • video
My View: The curious paradox of 'Won't Back Down'
Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in "Won't Back Down."
September 27th, 2012
01:50 PM ET

My View: The curious paradox of 'Won't Back Down'

Courtesy Becky HaleBy Sam Chaltain, Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Sam Chaltain is a Washington-based writer and education advocate. He can be found on Twitter at @samchaltain.

(CNN) - "Won’t Back Down," the new Hollywood film about two mothers determined to take over their children's failing inner city school, represents everything that’s wrong with the present way we talk about school reform – and everything we need to talk about more in the future.

The film itself feels like Soviet-era propaganda. No characters are well-developed; they’re all two-dimensional mouthpieces for different constituency groups’ pet programs and policy proposals. Even when the filmmakers try to instill a bit of complexity – such as the Teach for America alum who works in a neighborhood school and was raised in a family with deep union ties – the strings of the puppeteer are too easily visible for anyone interested in the story more than the sound bite.

It’s a lousy movie, plain and simple.

"Won’t Back Down" is also lousy at orienting viewers to the complexity of our current efforts to improve public education. School choice is presented as a panacea in and of itself, and the process of turning a struggling school into a successful one seems to involve little more than a few all-nighters, some dogged persistence and an unwavering belief in the rightness of one’s cause. If viewers took this film at its word, they might think that all we’d need to do to transform public education is scream “Power to the People” and presto! No more failing schools.

Unfortunately, it’s more complicated than that. And yet, even though the film’s treatment of school reform is misleadingly simplistic, it would be equally misleading to dismiss it altogether. In fact, the core issues it raises – the importance of parental engagement, the injustice of American education and the illogic of a sclerotic system of schools that has outgrown its Industrial-era mission – are exactly the sorts of issues we need to explore more deeply as a nation.
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Filed under: Parent trigger • Parents • Sam Chaltain • School choice • Teachers • Voices • Won't Back Down
September 27th, 2012
01:10 PM ET

Education as a campaign issue

Lisa Sylvester reports on the differences between candidates Obama and Romney on education.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Issues • Policy • Politics • video
My View: Parenting the secondary student: We’re not in elementary school anymore
September 27th, 2012
04:10 AM ET

My View: Parenting the secondary student: We’re not in elementary school anymore

Courtesy Kent Murray PhotographyBy Cindi Rigsbee, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Cindi Rigsbee is the 2009 North Carolina Teacher of the Year and a National Teacher of the Year Finalist. A National Board Certified Teacher, Cindi is the author of Finding Mrs. Warnecke: The Difference Teachers Make. She is also a member of the Center for Teaching Quality’s Teacher Leaders Network.  Her website is cindirigsbee.com.

Recently I’ve had the honor of watching children take a monumental step in their lives; I’ve watched them begin middle school. Believe me, there is nothing like the face of a sixth-grader, fresh from being the oldest and tallest at the elementary school, as they walk into an enormous middle school and try to master a schedule that moves them from class to class and struggle with a combination lock that fights back. Just today I recognized panic on a face, and after some investigation I understood: the lunchbox was missing!

But not to worry. These guys will be fine. In no time, they’ll be attending their first school dance with their friends, cheering on the upper classmen at sporting events, and proudly playing their shiny new band instruments at a concert. Educators in the building will support them and nurture them, and soon they’ll be independent and self-sufficient.

Sometimes the real concern is not about what happens inside the middle or high school. The real concern is centered on the wonderful people who send their kids to the bus stop or drop them off at school and then leave to go about their jobs and daily routines. On many days they count down the hours waiting anxiously to ask, “How was your day? What did you learn? Have you made any friends?”

The ones who can be the most anxious? The parents.

As an educator who hangs out in a middle school hallway on a daily basis, and as a parent who hasn’t forgotten my children’s middle school and high school years, I believe there are some strategies that may soothe your anxiety somewhat. Here’s how to make the transition easier … for you and for your child.
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Filed under: High school • Middle school • Voices
September 26th, 2012
01:09 PM ET

Worthy homecoming for bullied teen

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) - At Ogemaw Heights High School, one student shocked by the announcement of homecoming court was a girl named to be on it.

Whitney Kropp was not the most popular student at her West Branch, Michigan school. Described by the Detroit News as a “free spirit,” Kropp, with her bleached hair and alternative style, says she had been picked on in the past.

She’d shaken it off like so many others do, but the bullying she’d faced reached a new low earlier this month, when some of her classmates decided that nominating an unpopular girl to the traditionally popular court would be a good prank.

Kropp, of course, wasn’t in on the joke. When she heard her name announced in connection with homecoming, she was elated. Her mother said it never crossed Whitney’s mind that it could’ve been a prank; the 16-year-old was too happy.

Shortly after she discovered the truth that night, her mother found her in tears.

At the very least, Kropp was planning to skip homecoming. She said she’d felt betrayed and that she wasn’t a worthy student at Ogemaw Heights High.

Her mother and some of her friends had a different take: They told her to go to the dance anyway - that it would be the best way to get back at those who’d bullied her.

Kropp decided they were right. So did her community.

As word of the prank got around quickly in Kropp’s small town, her phone started ringing. People were calling just to encourage her.

Then, local businesses stepped in. One offered to cover the cost of Kropp’s homecoming dress. Another started planning her dinner. A local salon is picking up the cost of her hair, her makeup, her nails, and “anything else she wants,” according to the owners.

“Because so many people came together…it just turned right around,” said Bernice Kropp, Whitney’s mother.
FULL POST

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Filed under: Bullying • Carl Azuz • Character education • CNN Student News • High school
Five buzzwords you’re likely to hear in education this school year
September 26th, 2012
04:17 AM ET

Five buzzwords you’re likely to hear in education this school year

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Education, like any other profession, has a language all its own.  We’ve compiled a short list of some of the words and phrases you are likely to come across this academic year.  It’s by no means all-inclusive, and some of these terms are not new, but it gives you a sense of some of education’s priorities as we start a new school year.

Common Core State Standards, or CCSS or Common Core – a set of educational expectations, or benchmarks that was created by state leaders in education and government.  According to the Common Core website: “These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs.”  Most students will begin testing based on the Common Core Standards starting in 2014, but some districts are already beginning to assess students based on the new benchmarks. Opponents of the Common Core say this initiative is the first step toward a “nationalized curriculum” and national standardized testing. So far the standards have been adopted by 45 states and three U.S. territories. You can see if your state has adopted the standards here.

Flipped classes – Remember the struggles with geometry homework and that lost feeling when no one was around to help?  What if students could learn the lesson at home, then do their “homework” in class with the help of their teacher?  That’s the idea behind flipped classes, not a new concept but one that is gaining popularity. The practice caught on in part because of the success of websites like Khan Academy, which was started by former hedge fund manager Sal Khan, who devised a way to tutor his cousin remotely in math. Students learn the processes after school, watching videos or online explanations that they can pause and replay.  When they come to school, students then demonstrate their understanding of the material by doing their homework under the watchful eye of their teacher.  Some schools have reported higher attendance rates and test scores as a result of flipping.  But some say the practice doesn’t work for all subjects and that student accessibility to technology at home should be considered before instruction is built on flipping.

Gamification – is “the use of game-like thinking and elements in places that aren’t traditionally games,” according to GamifyingEducation.org. For example, teachers might incorporate online badges or leader boards into lessons to motivate students or use gaming techniques and applications to engage students in learning content. Proponents of gamification argue that it’s unrealistic to expect the video game generation to sit quietly in class and absorb information; the old “chalk and talk” method doesn’t work for these students. One way to engage students and help them learn, say gamification advocates, is to deliver the content in a game format. But there are questions about gamification: Is it a student achievement game-changer (no pun intended) or does it undermine intrinsic motivation?
FULL POST

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Filed under: Common Core State Standards • Flipped classes • Gamification • MOOC • Policy • Practice • School choice
My View: An easy out for athletes in Harvard scandal?
A referee waits during a game between Harvard and Vanderbilt during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
September 25th, 2012
06:00 PM ET

My View: An easy out for athletes in Harvard scandal?

Nicolaus MillsBy Nicolaus Mills, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Nicolaus Mills is professor of American studies at Sarah Lawrence College and is working on a book about the West Point football team of 1964 and its service in Vietnam.

(CNN) - Harvard is caught up in a student cheating scandal that its dean of undergraduate education calls "unprecedented in its scope and magnitude." As a Harvard grad, I am embarrassed, but what has me really worried is that Harvard, despite officials acknowledging the seriousness of what has happened, gives signs of trying to finesse the consequences of the scandal where key athletes are concerned.

The scandal centers on 125 students, as many as half of them varsity athletes from the men's basketball, baseball and football teams, according to The Boston Globe. They stand accused of copying from one another or plagiarizing on a take-home exam in a spring 2012 government course, "Introduction to Congress," with an enrollment of 279.

At Harvard the standard penalty for cheating is that a student can be asked to withdraw from the university for a year. In the case of athletes, withdrawal means the loss of a year of athletic eligibility, according to the NCAA, if they are forced to leave after they have registered for classes.

Harvard is seeking to avoid that problem. The secretary of Harvard's Administrative Board, the body that rules on individual cheating cases, sent around an internal e-mail to resident deans saying that fall athletes might "consider taking [a leave of absence] before their first game."

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Filed under: Cheating • Sports • Voices
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