Check out Schools of Thought's new home!
New school year! New buildings, new classrooms, new teachers, new subjects -- and a new home for Schools of Thought!
August 12th, 2013
10:33 AM ET

Check out Schools of Thought's new home!

To all our friends @CNNschools,

Today, Schools of Thought moves to a new home on The new will continue to share education news and opinions that CNN gathers from around the world, while reporting on ideas, innovation and technology that are making schools evolve. We'll be helping families navigate education, from the hard good-bye at the pre-K door to the hugs outside college commencement.

We'll also keep the discussion going on Twitter @CNNschools, on Facebook at CNN Living, and will be working closely with and, where we're already examining how parenthood and families are changing. Our friends at CNN Student News will continue to provide a commercial-free 10-minute news broadcast for middle and high school classrooms every weekday, as well.

Check out the new site, and good luck on the start of a new school year — there's always more to learn!

Jamie Gumbrecht, Donna Krache and John Martin

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Filed under: Voices
August 10th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: Why I won't break up a school fight

By Robyn Barberry, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Robyn Barberry teaches English and drama at a Maryland high school. With her husband, she manages Legends of the Fog, a haunted attraction with more than 200 teen volunteers. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College and blogs about motherhood for The Catholic Review.

(CNN) - In Florida, a 64-year-old bus driver has been criticized for failing to physically intervene in a three-on-one fight that took place in July. The bus driver says he was afraid to step in. As a high school teacher, I can't blame him.

The adults who work in public schools are outnumbered. When a violent, hormone-fueled scene unfolds, it's our duty to quell the calamity with every resource we have in the name of safety. But where do we draw the line?

Early in my teaching career, I was afraid of some of the bigger boys at school, especially one. I could see he carried a great deal of hatred inside - for me, for his classmates, for the world. He was tall and muscular; he could have been an athlete, but his poor grades, bad attitude and spotty record kept him from playing sports.

One afternoon, as I waited outside my classroom door, I heard a scuffle behind me. The boy I feared and another, smaller boy were shoving each other by my white board. I stepped in, and told them to stop. When they didn't, I shouted louder and told another student, my go-to helper, to get another teacher. As the shoves turned to punches, rage grew in the larger boy's eyes. The other student asked him to stop, but he had thrust his hands around his neck. I tried to pull him free, but the large boy shoved, pressing the other student and my arm against the cinder block wall. I felt trapped and frightened, and thought I might black out. Just then, two male teachers pulled the boys apart and dragged them to the office.

"Are you OK?" a third teacher said. "Look at your hand!"

My wrist was red and swollen. It hurt, but not as much as knowing I wasn't safe in my own classroom. My neighbor teacher took over my class so that I could go to the office to fill out an incident report. I could barely grip the pen. Two police officers assigned to our school urged me to file assault charges against the boys, but I insisted they just hadn't seen me. I wanted to believe that they wouldn't hurt me, but I also wondered if the boy would retaliate if the law got involved.

Fortunately, my wrist was only sprained and I returned to work the next day in a cumbersome brace. But I kept wondering, what if the boy had pushed the other one harder? What if his anger was directed at me? Suppose it was my head that was smashed against that cinderblock wall? What if he'd had a weapon?

On the other side, what if adrenaline gave me undiscovered strength and I had hurt one of them? Could their parents sue me? Would I lose my job?

Read Barberry's full column

My View: Don't segregate boys and girls in classrooms
"Single-sex classes might do more harm than good," Michael Kimmel says.
August 9th, 2013
10:58 AM ET

My View: Don't segregate boys and girls in classrooms

By Michael Kimmel, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Michael Kimmel is distinguished professor of sociology and gender studies at Stony Brook University. His new book, "Angry White Men," will be published by Nation Books in the fall.

(CNN) - Is your daughter a tomboy? Your son not especially into football? Does your daughter excel at math? Your son a skilled artist? Or does your daughter switch roles, relatively easily, from skinning her knees on a soccer field to worrying about what to wear to a party? Or does your son, like mine, come home sweaty and bruised from lacrosse practice only to sing gorgeously in the shower as a member of his high school a cappella group?

If your answers are yes - and probably most parents recognize some elements of these traits in their children - you can breathe a bit easier today. That is, at least, if you happen to live in Wood County, West Virginia.

That's because recently, under a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union and its local affiliates, the Wood County Board of Education agreed to abandon for two school years its program of separating boys and girls into single-sex classes. The ACLU had filed a lawsuit on behalf of a mother and her daughters who claimed the sex segregation was a form of sex discrimination against girls.

This little-noted legal settlement gives all of us - parents, teachers, administrators, and kids themselves - something to think about: Are single-sex classes really an effective way to educate our children?

Historically, of course, single-sex schools - especially private schools and colleges - were the norm. But since the dawn of the 20th century, both educators and parents have seen them as historic anachronisms, especially for boys. Single-sex schools for girls may have challenged stereotypes, but single-sex schools for boys reproduced them, fostering what David Riesman and Christopher Jencks, in their monumental midcentury study, "The Academic Revolution," called "male arrogance."

Today, single-sex schools may provide some benefits, though these tend to be benefits that accompany the economic privilege of the families that can afford them. (That is, single sex private schools tend to also be schools for the elite.) But single-sex classes, in otherwise coeducational public schools, are entirely misguided.

Read Kimmel's full column

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Filed under: Gender • School choice • Voices
August 6th, 2013
03:12 PM ET

New Atlanta high school features rifle range

(CNN) - A new high school opening in Atlanta this week will feature 11 stories of space for students - and a new rifle range. The space will be used by Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and rifle team members, and will be under the direction of a trained educator, CNN affiliate WSB reported. The range will be used for compressed air-powered pellet rifles, and is modeled after an existing range at another Atlanta high school, but some parents and students said it raised safety questions.

August 6th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Meet the Burka Avenger, a fighter for female education

By Saima Mohsin, CNN

(CNN) - Most, if not all, super heroes wear cloaks and masks to hide their identity. But how about a burqa?

A new cartoon series in Pakistan is turning stereotypes on their head. It's centered around a woman who doesn't wear a burqa in the daytime but puts one on to transform into the "Burka Avenger" – and what's more, she's fighting for female education.

The cartoon is already the talk of the country and it hasn't even launched yet. "Burka Avenger" is a passion project of Pakistani pop star, Haroon.

"It was in 2010 and I was reading a lot of articles about girls' schools being shut down by extremists so that was in my mind," he told CNN after I met him at his studio.

"Living in Pakistan, all theses issues are staring you in the face constantly. So when you're creating art, whether it be music or anything else like a cartoon TV series - you want to incorporate social messages. I feel it's my duty to try and make a positive difference."

School teacher by day, by night the Burka Avenger (spelled with a 'k') dons a special burqa to protect girls' schools, fighting the bad guys trying to shut them down.."The Burka Avenger is a character called Jiya, orphaned as a child, adopted by a Kabbadi master, who is a master of this mystic martial art that I created, called Takht Kabbadi - the art of fighting with books and pens. It gives the message of the importance of education and that the pen is mightier than the sword," Haroon says.

Read the full story

August 5th, 2013
09:24 AM ET

Driver says he did all he could during Florida school bus beating

By Pamela Brown, CNN

(CNN) - The windmilling fists and stomping feet rain down blows on the 13-year-old boy.

Trapped on the floor between the bus seats, he cries out as he receives fierce punch after vicious kick from the three bigger, older youths.

As the relentless assault unfolds, the driver of the Florida school bus alerts the dispatcher, pleading for aid.

But he doesn't physically step in to help.

The bus driver, at least according to his school's policy, did nothing wrong.

'Get somebody here quick'

The attack took place July 9 in Pinellas County, Florida. But the horrific cell phone video - and the surveillance video - came out only recently.

As the boy is pummeled, the bus driver John Moody yells at the assailants to leave the boy alone.

He also asks dispatchers to send help.

"You gotta get somebody here quick, quick, quick, quick," he says. "They're about to beat this boy to death over here."

"Please get somebody here quick. There's still doing it," he adds. "There's nothing I can do."

Moody, 64, says he was too afraid to step in.

"The three boys just jumped on him and started pounding on him. And I did all can," he told CNN affiliate WFLA. "I was looking. It was like I was in shock. I was petrified."

Not required to intervene

The ferocity of the attack left the 13-year-old with two black eyes and a broken arm.

"There was clearly an opportunity for him to intervene and or check on the welfare of the children or the child in this case and he didn't make any effort to do so," Chief Robert Vincent of Gulfport Police Department told the affiliate.

According to Pinellas County school policy, the bus driver isn't required to intervene, only to call dispatch.

He can step in, if he feels it's safe.

Other counties actually forbid drivers from physically stopping fights.

Read the full story

Follow @CNNschools on Twitter!

Posted by
Filed under: Bus driver • Florida • School bus safety • School violence
Congress OKs cheaper student loans
House passes new rule on student loans, which pushes down interest rates for this fall.
July 31st, 2013
06:55 PM ET

Congress OKs cheaper student loans

By Jennifer Liberto, CNNMoney

Washington (CNNMoney) - The House on Wednesday approved a bipartisan that ensures lower interest rates on loans for students heading to college this fall.

Members of the House voted 392 to 31 to lower rates for undergraduates taking out government loans this school year to 3.86% - cheaper than the 6.8% interest rate that kicked in on July 1. The new rates would be retroactive and apply to loans taken out after July 1.

The bill, which passed the Senate last week, will now go to the President Obama's desk to be signed into law.

It has provisions for rates to go higher in coming years.

Read the full story from CNNMoney

Posted by
Filed under: College costs • Politics
Parents, get ready for some tax-free shopping
Seventeen states are preparing to offer shoppers tax breaks on back-to-school items.
July 31st, 2013
10:15 AM ET

Parents, get ready for some tax-free shopping

By Angela Johnson

New York (CNN Money) - As children across the country start getting ready to say goodbye to summer, 17 states are preparing to offer shoppers tax breaks on back-to-school items.

The tax savings could amount to anywhere from 4% to 7% on everything from crayons to computers.

That savings could come in handy. Economic uncertainty, unemployment and a recent surge in gas prices are forcing parents to focus on necessities this school year, says Matthew Shay, chief executive of the National Retail Federation. Still, families with school-aged children are expected to spend an average of $635 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics during this year's back-to-school shopping season, down from $688 last year, the industry trade group found.

Before heading to the stores, shoppers in the states where these temporary breaks are being offered should research which items are tax exempt and the restrictions that apply, said Carol Kokinis-Graves, senior state tax analyst at CCH, a global provider of accounting and audit information.

In Florida, for example, clothing that costs less than $75 qualifies. But any item that costs more than that amount does not. Want a personal computer? You can get a tax break in Florida, but only if you opt for something that costs less than $750 - not that MacBook Air you may have been eying.

If you gotta' have that top-end Mac, try Missouri or North Carolina; those two states are offering breaks on computers worth up to $3,500.

Read the full story from CNNMoney

Posted by
Filed under: Back to school • Parents
July 26th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

University of Southern California student: Campus police decided I wasn't raped

(CNN) - A University of Southern California student said she reported a rape, and was told police won't pursue a case because the alleged rapist didn't orgasm. Another student said she was raped by her former boyfriend, and the campus brushed it off. The university says it takes sexual violence seriously, that it investigates cases and takes disciplinary action, but it's no replacement for the Los Angeles Police Department. Students have now formed the Student Coalition Against Rape, and the U.S. Department of Education is looking into how the university is handling cases of sexual violence.

It's not the first campus that has faced criticism in recent years for how it handled rape; the U.S. Department of Education has opened investigations into several universities.

July 25th, 2013
10:30 AM ET

Indian headmistress tied to poisoned lunches arrested

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN

New Delhi (CNN) - The headmistress of the Indian school that authorities say served toxic lunches, killing 23 students, was arrested Wednesday, police said.

Meena Kumari, 36, was taken into custody on her way to a court where she had gone to surrender herself, police Superintendent Sujeet Kumar told CNN. She will be questioned Wednesday and taken before the court Thursday, he said.

Authorities had been working to track down Kumari, who had been at large since the July 16 incident.

The whereabouts of her husband, who is not named as an accused person in the case, are still not known, Kumar added. Police want to question him in connection with the case.

Pesticides have been found in the food and oil used in the school lunch that sickened 25 others in northern India's Bihar state, police said.

Read the full story

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