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
(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.
By Jessica Yellin, Aaron Cooper and Tom Cohen, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday she is resigning and will be nominated to become president of the University of California system.
In an e-mail to associates, Napolitano said she will leave the Department of Homeland Security in September. While her nomination must be approved by the university's board of regents at a meeting next week, Napolitano sounded confident of the outcome.
"Departing a job and community you love is never easy, but I am passionate about educating the next generation of leaders and the University of California is like no other institution in affording such an opportunity," her e-mail said.
She graduated from the University of Santa Clara in California in 1979 as its first female valedictorian.
Napolitano, 55, was confirmed as the nation's third homeland security secretary and the first woman to hold the post the day after President Barack Obama took office in 2009.
Read the full story
By Erica Fink and Laurie Segall, CNNMoney
(CNNMoney) - Your child's school knows just about everything about your kid. Now, many school districts are storing all that information in the cloud.
Non-profit inBloom offers an Internet database service that allows schools to store, track and analyze data on schoolchildren. If you think about it, that information is more than just test scores. It's whether kids receive free lunch - a telling indicator of the family's finances. It's the time a student got into a fight in the schoolyard. And it could be a child's prescription medication.
The upshot of storing all that data in one location is that it can be used to tailor specific curricula to each child. If Johnny's data suggests that he's a tactile learner and he's failing math, inBloom's analytic engine might suggest a particular teaching approach.
Teachers say that kind of insight can be helpful.
Jim Peterson, a teacher in Bloomington, Ill., says inBloom has helped break down the silos in his school system's data collection. His school district supports 50 separate data systems.
"This is all about building personalized learning environments for kids," he says.
Peterson also thinks having this kind of data will spur new innovation in education, encouraging entrepreneurs to build applications that can help teachers make use of their students' data.
But as more school districts team up with inBloom, including New York, parents are becoming increasingly vocal critics of the data collection.
Read the full story from CNNMoney
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By Claire Potter, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Claire Potter is a professor of history at the New School for Public Engagement. She blogs at Tenured Radical for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
(CNN) - New York University's 2010 graduating class owed a total of more than $600 million in student loans. It's unlikely the university will forgive them. But NYU has forgiven portions of mortgages they have extended to President John Sexton, other university executives or star faculty - money that has been used to buy properties in Manhattan or vacation homes in the Hamptons.
Does this shock you?
Or, how about this: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, a former executive vice president at NYU, received an "exit bonus" of $685,000. Just to put this in perspective, Lew's NYU exit bonus alone would have provided free tuition for 275 undergraduates, or a little more than 17% of the incoming class.
The revelations about lavish compensation packages at New York University (my alma mater) have raised a firestorm of criticism. Faculty critics have already publicized NYU's top executive salaries: Sexton takes home nearly $1.5 million, Vivien Lee, the vice dean of science gets $1.1 million, and Robert Grossman, the dean of the medical center, makes a whopping $3.5 million.
Read Potter's full column
Editor's note: This story was updated May 16, 2013, to reflect new information about the student protest.
By Dantel Hood, CNN
(CNN) - For more than a century, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York provided free education to all admitted students. But the school isn’t immune to the money crunch forcing tuition increases at colleges across the country.
In April, Cooper Union announced that it will start charging tuition for undergraduate students matriculating in fall 2014. Citing a $12 million annual budget deficit, the Cooper Union Board of Trustees will scale back the full scholarship it has traditionally awarded.
At least 50 of Cooper Union's nearly 1,000 students have been occupying President Jamshed Bharucha's office on the seventh floor of the school's Foundation Building. The students organized a sit-in to protest the decision to charge future undergraduate students half the cost of tuition, up to $19,000 a year.
This week, they painted the office’s lobby black as a symbol of their protest. Cooper Union junior Troy Kreiner said it was an extension of a demonstration by architecture students, who painted another lobby black to protest tuition.
(CNN) - Pam Mathers was a half-mile away from the Boston Marathon finish line when bombs exploded Monday. The Michigan resident wasn't injured, but she didn't finish the race. Students back at Hamilton Elementary School in Troy, Michigan, where Mathers is principal, didn't want her months of training to end without celebration. They created a symbolic finish line so they could cheer her on, CNN affiliate WDIV reported.
By Tommy Andres, CNN
Editor's Note: Listen to the full story in our player above, and join the conversation in our comments section below.
(CNN) - This week, 35 former Atlanta Public Schools teachers and administrators, including the former superintendent, Beverly Hall, turned themselves into police. They were indicted on charges ranging from racketeering to theft, all tied to a district-wide cheating scandal that was discovered in recent years. It's been described as the largest school cheating scheme in the history of the United States.
The teachers are accused of erasing and changing standardized test answers to improve scores. Those scores are tied closely to state and federal funding as well as teacher bonuses.
The arrests were another step towards closure of a three year saga that's left an indelible mark on Atlanta.
Errol Davis took over as superintendent when Hall resigned in 2011.
CNN Radio interviewed Davis about his journey through the scandal and about changes he's made on testing security at Atlanta's public schools.
Read the full story on CNN's Soundwaves blog
Atlanta (CNN) - In what has been described as one of the largest cheating scandals to hit the nation's public education system, 35 Atlanta Public Schools educators and administrators were indicted Friday on charges of racketeering and corruption.
The indictment is the bookend to a story that was once touted as a model for the nation's school districts after the district's test scores dramatically improved in some of its toughest urban schools.
Among those indicted by a Fulton County, Georgia, grand jury was Beverly Hall, the former schools superintendent who gained national recognition in 2009 for turning around Atlanta's school system.
"She was a full participant in that conspiracy," Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told reporters during a news conference announcing the charges.
"Without her, this conspiracy could not have taken place, particularly in the degree in which it took place."
The indictment follows a state investigation that was launched after a series of reports by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper found large, unexplained gains in test scores in some Atlanta schools.
A state review determined that some cheating had occurred in more than half of the district's elementary and middle schools. About 180 teachers were initially implicated in the scandal.
(CNN) - The state of New Jersey is taking over administration of the troubled public schools in the city of Camden, Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday.
A recent Department of Education investigation found Camden city schools are among the lowest-performing in the state, Christie said at a news conference at Woodrow Wilson High School in the city.
"We're taking the lead because for too long, the public school system in Camden has failed its children," he said. "Each day that it gets worse, we're failing the children of Camden, we're denying them a future, we're not allowing them to reach their full potential."
The poor student performance, a lack of a districtwide curricula, inconsistent and haphazard school staffing, lack of central leadership, and a failure to provide student support services has resulted in "full state intervention," the governor's office said in a news release.
Christie said the decision to partner with Camden school officials was not one made easily or quickly.
"I waited three years because I really felt like I wanted to give the folks in the city of Camden the chance without having to enter into a partnership with the state," Christie said.
The issues with student achievement and institutional administration do not stem from a lack of financial support. Camden is receiving more than $279.5 million in state funding, an increase of $3.6 million from last year. During the 2011-12 school year, Camden spent $23,709 per student, compared with the statewide average of $18,045, the governor's office said.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org