By Annalyn Kurtz, CNNMoney
New York (CNNMoney) - The class of 2013 will face an "extremely difficult" job market when college students graduate in the months ahead, according to a new research report.
Unemployment remains high for young college grads. For those who will find jobs, many will probably have to settle for low-level positions, the Economic Policy Institute said Wednesday.
The unemployment rate for recent college grads between the ages of 21 to 24 has averaged 8.8% over the last year, according to Labor Department data.
Once you also include young grads who are working part-time for economic reasons, and those who have stopped looking for a job in the last year, the so-called "underemployment rate" is a whopping 18.3%.
Sure, the job market has improved during the past few years. But both these rates remain higher than pre-recession levels.
By Jay Parini, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont. He is the author of "The Art of Teaching." His novel "The Last Station" was made into an Academy Award-nominated film.
(CNN) - I've been teaching English in college for 40 years, and I've never met a single professor who likes grading. "Hate" is too strong a word for what they feel. But nobody likes it. The fun stuff is talking to students, holding classroom discussions, thinking about your subject in complex ways and trying to convey your enthusiasm for the subject. Education is about leading students in useful directions, helping them to discover their own critical intelligence, their own voices.
Now a company has come up with software that can grade our papers for us. EdX is a nonprofit company started by Harvard and MIT. It also creates online courses called MOOCs (for massive open online course). With this new software, students submitting their papers online can get immediate feedback: no more waiting until the lazy professor gets around to grading their work, probably leaving coffee rings and inky fingerprints on the pages.
Having a program grade papers would apparently free teachers to do other things, but I think it would be a mistake. Why? As a teacher, I may begin to understand students by their conversation or how they respond in class, but when they actually have to put their thoughts on paper, I can learn a huge amount in a relatively brief time. I can see how they think and feel in relation to the material before them, and if (and how) they have problems in making connections, marshaling arguments, drawing conclusions. Needless to say, I can also get a sense of where they are with the material at hand. Have they learned enough to progress to the next stage?
By Julia Duin, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Julia Duin teaches journalism at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She worked in newspapers for 25 years, including stints at the Houston Chronicle, the Washington Times, and for the past two years, as a contributing writer for the Washington Post Sunday magazine. Her website is juliaduin.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliaduin.
(CNN) - Remember those late summer days, just before the start of school, when you knew you were free as a bird until Labor Day?
I used to enjoy them, too. And then I moved to West Tennessee.
The Volunteer State is one of 10 states - all in the South except for Utah and Arizona - where a majority of schools begin classes before August 15. I’m willing to bet the school start dates here are the earliest in the country. Nashville public schools will begin their classes next summer on August 1. In Chattanooga, it will be August 8. Memphis will start August 5. Things are a little saner in Knoxville, where schools will begin August 21 this year.
But recently, my local school board in Madison County voted to begin school on August 2.
Yes, August 2. I’m the parent of a first-grader in one of the elementary schools in Jackson, a city of 65,211 an hour east of Memphis. It is best known as the place where legendary railroad engineer Casey Jones grew up. It is a center for cotton, soybeans, a Pringles Potato Chips plant - and early schools.
Before moving here, I lived in Maryland, a state that Education Week recently anointed as having the country’s best schools. We started school around the third week in August and ended in early June. Most of the country cannot comprehend starting school August 2.
I like to spend summers near family in the Pacific Northwest, where summer doesn't even kick in until July and August and September are the best months to be there. All around the country, there are reunions, sporting events, fairs, festivals and zillions of outdoor events in August. All my college friends from Oregon are having our once-every-five-years reunion the second weekend of August. In 2008, I went. This year, I will be stuck in Tennessee.
In Los Angeles, a program is trying to stop school violence by addressing teens' mental health. There's no predicting violent outbursts, the team says, and it's tough to watch out for L.A.'s nearly 700,000 students - but they feel like they've reached kids who probably wouldn't have gotten help, otherwise.
As college applicants are receiving their admission and rejection letters, Fareed Zakaria says it's time for colleges and universities to rethink their missions - and admissions. The higher education system is the "envy of the world," he writes in Time. "But there are broad changes taking place at American universities that are moving them away from an emphasis on merit and achievement and toward offering a privileged experience for an already privileged group." The problem is detailed in the new book "Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality," and in conversations with higher education officials, Zakaria says, and it's hurting state universities around the country.
(CNN) - It's not enough to be a fantastic speller anymore. A student who wants to win the National Spelling Bee must now be a whiz at vocabulary. The Scripps National Spelling Bee will add the evaluation of vocabulary to the competition's early rounds, according to a release from the bee.
"It represents a deepening of the bee's commitment to its purpose: to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives," said Paige Kimble, the director of the bee.
"Spelling and vocabulary are, in essence, two sides of the same coin," she said. "As a child studies the spelling of a word and its etymology, he will discover its meaning. As a child learns the meaning of a word, it becomes easier to spell. And all of this enhances the child's knowledge of the English language."
By Wendy Kopp, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Wendy Kopp is CEO of Teach for All, a global network of independent organizations dedicated to expanding educational opportunity, and founder and board chairwoman of Teach for America, a national corps of recent college graduates who commit two years to teach in high-needs schools.
(CNN) - Tech visionary Steve Jobs understood better than anyone the impulse to believe that technology can solve our most complex societal problems. "Unfortunately it just ain't so," he said. "We need to attack these things at the root, which is people and how much freedom we give people. ... I wish it was as simple as giving it over to the computer."
That's certainly true when it comes to education, particularly in impoverished communities.
As a founder of two organizations that recruit top college graduates to expand educational opportunity, I've spent a lot of time examining what's at work in successful classrooms and schools over the past two decades. In every classroom where students are excelling against the odds, there's a teacher who's empowered her students to work hard to realize their potential. Whenever I ask the leaders of successful schools their secret, the answer is almost always the same: people, people, people. They are obsessed with recruiting and developing the best teams.
Research confirms that great teachers change lives. Students with one highly effective elementary school teacher are more likely to go to college, less likely to become pregnant as teens and earn tens of thousands more over their lifetimes. Faced with the choice between giving every child in a school his or her own laptop or putting 30 of them in a classroom with one exceptional teacher, there's no question which is the better investment.
So it's disappointing to see more and more people herald technology as an educational panacea while dismissing the indispensable role of people.
(CNN) - Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai has said 40 girls in Pakistan will be the first to benefit from a fund set up in her name after she was shot in the head by the Taliban for her efforts to promote girls' education.
She announced the $45,000 grant for education in the Swat Valley - the Taliban stronghold where she's from - in a video played at the Women in the World summit in New York City on Thursday.
"We are going to educate 40 girls, and I invite all of you to support the Malala Fund," she said.
"Let us turn the education of 40 girls into 40 million girls."
Actress and U.N. special envoy Angelina Jolie spoke movingly of Malala's courage in the face of the Taliban's attempt to silence her, saying there was "always something special" about her.
West Palm Beach, Florida (CNN) - Working as a guidance counselor five years ago in Palm Beach County, Estella Pyfrom noticed that fewer students had access to a computer after school.
The sluggish economy forced many families to prioritize their money and use it for more pressing needs.
"They needed food. They needed to pay their mortgage or their rent," said Pyfrom, a former teacher. "Some of them lost their cars. So I knew it was a serious problem."
Without a computer at home, or reliable transportation to get to a computer, Pyfrom feared that many of these students would get left behind.
So she bought a bus, filled it with computers and brought technology to the kids.
Her mobile computer lab, Estella's Brilliant Bus, has provided free, computer-based tutoring for more than 2,000 students since 2011.
"If people don't have some knowledge of technology, they're going to be limited," said Pyfrom, who retired in 2009 and used money from her savings to buy the bus. "It's absolutely essential that they get involved technologically."
By Ben Brumfield, CNN
(CNN) - Sorry, kid. No money, no lunch.
Students at an Attleboro, Massachusetts, middle school went hungry this week, if they had a negative balance on their pre-paid lunch cards.
Five cents of debt was enough for cafeteria employees at the Coehlo Middle School to instruct kids at least one day this week to dump out the food they would have normally eaten, CNN affiliate WJAR in Rhode Island reported.
About 25 children left the lunchroom with empty stomachs, said Whitson's Culinary Group in a statement. The company runs the school's cafeteria.
Parents were appalled. So was the principal. So was Whitson's.
"I told them this is bullying; that's neglect, child abuse," said parent Jo-An Blanchard.
Principal Andrew Boles apologized and blamed the culinary company. "My expectation is that every child, every adult, every parent, every student, every teacher is respected in this building, and that didn't happen yesterday because of Whitson's," he told WJAR.