By CNN Staff
(CNN) - A five-week strike by a New York City school bus drivers' union is ending, with nearly 9,000 drivers heading back to work next week and some 150,000 students getting their rides to class again.
The strike - the first for school bus drivers in New York City since 1979 - began after Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a cost-cutting move, put nearly 1,100 bus routes worked by the union drivers up for bids.
Michael Cordiello, president of the drivers' union local, said in a conference call Friday the union decided to end its strike after five current Democratic candidates for New York mayor pledged to "revisit the school bus transportation system" if elected. Drivers, who were demanding job security, will report for work next Wednesday morning, Cordiello said.
For his part, Bloomberg said Friday, "I urged the union leaders to end the strike and made clear that the City would not be held hostage ... Tonight, they agreed."
By CNN staff
(CNN) - Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s team will participate in a simulated school shooting as a training exercise, with help from a special celebrity guest, according to a statement.
Along with instructors, actor Steven Seagal will lead the simulation, to take place in the Arizona county on Saturday, February 9.
Seagal, who has made a name for himself headlining action movies such as “Above the Law” and Under Seige,” will help educate 40 armed volunteers on room-entry tactics and hand-to-hand tactics, the statement says.
It's one of several new school security events and strategies districts across the country are trying after the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Read the full post on CNN's Marquee blog
What do you think? Is it helpful to have star power, or distracting from real issues of school security? Share your thoughts in the comments.
By Jose Pagliery, CNNMoney
New York (CNNMoney) - An immigration system overhaul might finally address a growing problem: America's brain drain.
Smart foreigners who study at U.S. universities - often at taxpayer expense through scholarships - face a tough fight after graduation if they want to stay in the country.
Many share the experience of Shailesh Deshpande, who lost his fight to stay after graduating from Virginia Tech. He returned home to India and is now launching a company there.
"Don't hate me when I take jobs away from U.S. shores," he said. "Blame your government for it."
There's fear U.S. immigration laws could cripple the nation's economic growth. That's why a group of senators this week suggested creating a fast track to award green cards to foreign students in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).
The current system sets quotas that limit individual countries to no more than 7% of all green cards. That makes it harder for applicants from India or China, compared to applicants from Belgium or Iceland.
Immigrants make up a surprisingly large share of STEM students in Master's and Ph.D programs: more than 40%. The sheer number has ballooned to 205,600 students as of 2011, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement records.
Although federal officials say it's difficult to accurately track how many of them leave, companies and colleges that interact with foreign students say they are increasingly being driven out of the country.
Read the full story from CNNMoney
By Jen Christensen, CNN
(CNN) - A couple of weeks ago, Micha Rahder got a disturbing letter. It said that she no longer had health insurance - and was required to as a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz.The problem was - it was her own school's insurance policy that was dropping her.
Rahder, 30, was losing insurance because she had reached the lifetime limit of coverage under the University of California's student health insurance plan. She suffers from a rare disorder that requires her to get regular and expensive IV treatments every four weeks.
Without treatment for her chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy - a disease that attacks her nervous system - she has lost the ability to walk and has had to have a guest lecturer come in to teach her class. She said she can't understand why she's in this predicament.
Micha Rahder can't walk at the moment because she can't afford treatment for her illness without insurance.
"I initially thought Obamacare would take care of this, but somehow these schools have slipped out of it. I'm extremely frustrated," Rahder said. "Most people didn't know I was sick until this happened, and when I tell them why I'm sick, they can't believe it."
Had she been insured elsewhere, she might have been protected from losing her health care coverage.
Under the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act, or ACA, lifetime limits are supposed to be a thing of the past. But there are about 30 schools in the country, mostly in California and the Ivy League system, that offer students what is called self-funded student health insurance.
Instead of using an insurance company, a university runs the program, and student premiums directly pay for it. Experts say it's a complicated system to run, but it's ultimately a lot cheaper for a school, because it eliminates the middleman of an insurance company.
Read the full story
By Sally Holland, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Congressional Republicans are seeking more details on President Barack Obama's plan to reduce gun violence in schools.
In letters to members of Obama's Cabinet, they requested information about the president's time frame and funding plans for the implementation of 23 executive actions on gun control enacted in mid-January in response to the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, in December.
Additionally, they want to know how the president's Congressional proposals will relate to mental health programs currently in place for students.
The leaders of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Housing and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
"While we agree we cannot stop every senseless act of violence, we share the president's commitment to reviewing the facts and evaluating proposed and existing policies and programs intended to help teachers, principals, and parents protect their children," the letter to Holder says.
Editor's note: Bill Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Watch an interview with him Sunday on "Fareed Zakaria GPS" at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
By Bill Gates, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Today I released my annual letter. Each year, I reflect on what I learned in the last year through our travels and work with the foundation and how that will shape my thinking over the coming months. This year, my letter focuses on how important it is to set clear goals and measure progress in order to accomplish the foundation's priorities, both here at home and around the world.
Setting a clear goal lets you know what you're driving at: Picking the right interventions that will have the most impact on that final goal, using that information to understand what's working and what's not, and adapting your strategy as necessary. One of the clearest examples of the power of measurement was the work of our partners to support great teachers.
In the past few years, the quest to understand great teaching has been at the center of the public discussion about how to improve education in America. But for the country's 3 million teachers and 50 million schoolchildren, great teaching isn't an abstract policy issue. For teachers, understanding great teaching means the opportunity to receive feedback on the skills and techniques that can help them excel in their careers. For students, it means a better chance of graduating from high school ready for success in life.
But what do we mean when we talk about great teaching? In my experience, the vast majority of teachers get zero feedback on how to improve.
Read Gates' full column
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) – Think back to the age before GoldieBlox, before gender-neutral Easy-Bake ovens, before “My Princess Boy" or “It Gets Better.” Way before apps for infants, TV networks for toddlers or even "Schoolhouse Rock" on Saturday mornings.
That’d bring you to the early 1970s, when an album in a bright pink sleeve was passed among teachers, parents, librarians and kids. It was called “Free to Be … You and Me,” and record players around the country spun songs such as “William’s Doll,” “Parents are People” and “It’s All Right to Cry.”
When it debuted in 1972, there was nothing else like it – at least, nothing so popular. It was feminist and multicultural; an early childhood education in empathy; multimedia before anybody used the word. There was the gold record album, a best-selling book and in 1974, an Emmy- and Peabody-winning TV special that starred its creator, Marlo Thomas, “and friends” – literally, her formidable list of famous pals, including Harry Belafonte, Alan Alda, Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Carl Reiner, Rosey Grier and young Michael Jackson.
More than 40 years later, there's nostalgia in its opening chords and a legacy that still courses through classrooms.
“Children memorized every lyric and asked their parents and teacher to play the record over and over again,” Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a Ms. magazine co-founder, wrote in the 2012 book "When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children's Classic and the Difference It Made."
“It challenged teachers to face up to their entrenched, often unacknowledged, gender biases and to cast a more critical eye on the books they were assigning, whom they called on most often in class, whom they allowed to dominate the block corner or the dress-up box.”
(CNN) - We know education can change the world - but all over the world, even in the place you live, there are obstacles in the way of girls making that happen.
CNN Films' "Girl Rising," airing in spring 2013, follows nine remarkable girls in nine countries in their quest for an education. Throughout the year, CNN will highlight their stories, and the stories of others' around the world making a difference in education.
We bet you've got a story to tell, too. Making it through years of schooling and life lessons is tough everywhere, including cities, towns and counties around the United States. Or maybe it's OK for you, but it was tougher for your mom, your grandma, your teacher, your church leader, your role model. Maybe your sister or daughter is struggling now, or your next door neighbor, your lab partner, your roommate, your teammate.
What's your story? We invite you to share your personal experience about a challenge you faced in getting an education, or to interview a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother - any girl or woman in your community - about her biggest challenge, and how she overcame it.
Sign into CNN iReport, record a video or write about the experience and include an original photo. Your story could be featured on CNN.com.
By Michael Martinez, CNN
(CNN) - A 16-year-old student who blasted a California high school classroom with a shotgun Thursday was targeting two classmates because he felt he'd been bullied, the local sheriff said Thursday night.
One student was hit and was in critical but stable condition Thursday night, and the shooter was in custody after a teacher and the school's campus supervisor talked him into putting his shotgun down.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said he did not know whether bullying had actually occurred between the Taft Union High School students.
"But certainly he (the shooter) believed that the two people he had targeted had bullied him," Youngblood said at an evening news conference in Taft, about 30 miles from Bakersfield.
The young shooter was still being interrogated Thursday evening, Youngblood said, adding that the youth will be charged as a juvenile with attempted murder. It will be up to prosecutors to decide whether he should be charged as an adult, the sheriff said.
The name of the student in custody was not released.
My View: Balancing fear, hope after a school shooting
Youngblood laid out a detailed scenario of the hours before the shooting, saying the student planned the assault the night before, and took a shotgun belonging to his brother.
The student did not show up for school on time Thursday, Youngblood said, instead appearing about half through the first period of classes. He was caught on school surveillance cameras, the sheriff said, using a side entrance instead of the school's main door and "appearing nervous" as he tried to conceal the shotgun when he entered the school.
The gunman fired directly at one student, who was hit, then as students rushed to flee, the gunman fired again, Youngblood said.
"Miraculously, (the second shot) didn't injure anyone."
My View: Above all, teachers are in it for the kids
Youngblood credited the teacher and the campus supervisor - a campus monitor on the school's staff - with bravely facing off with the young gunman. Youngblood identified the teacher as Ryan Heber and the campus supervisor as Kim Lee Fields.
"They stood there face-to-face (with the gunman) not knowing whether he's going to turn that shotgun on them," Youngblood said.
It's the first day back in class since a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and questions aren't necessarily getting easier to answer. Just as parents and teachers want to know why 20 children and six educators died, many kids are trying to piece together what happened and what it means.
Here are tools, guidance and suggestions to help you decide how to talk about with the kids in your life, whether in class or at home.
1) CNN Student News devoted Monday's 10-minute episode to explaining and reflecting on the shooting and its aftermath. Student News is a free, commercial-free, daily news show for middle and high school classrooms. Some students who wanted to type out thoughts, questions, reflections and prayers are sharing on the CNN Student News A to Z blog, as well.
2) Know the signs of anxiety and fear. Children of different age groups express emotions in different ways, whether they're directly affected or traumatized by conversations and media. Here are suggestions for how to handle each age group, and what signs reveal they're still struggling.
"It is minute by minute, case by case. It's really a matter of listening and responding in a way that fits the framework of their understanding," said Dr. John B. Lochridge, an Atlanta-based child and family psychiatrist.
CNN’s Schools of Thought blog is a place for parents, educators and students to learn about and discuss what's happening in education. We're curious about what's happening before kindergarten, through college and beyond. Have a story to tell? Contact us at email@example.com