May 22nd, 2013
01:30 PM ET

Oklahoma teacher used music to calm kids

(CNN) - When first-grade teacher Waynel Mayes saw that a tornado was approaching her Oklahoma elementary school, she began to move the desks around, told the kids they were playing "worms" who had to stay in their tunnels.

Then, she had another idea: She grabbed their musical instruments and asked them to play and sing as loud as they could. They could scream if they were scared, she said, but just don't stop singing.

"All our teachers were so brave," Mayes said, but the kids helped, too. "They were the bravest, they were the heroes because they listened to all the teachers."

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Filed under: Elementary school • Music • Oklahoma • Students • Teachers
May 22nd, 2013
10:28 AM ET

Inside a tornado-ravaged school

By Josh Levs, CNN

(CNN) - It was the end of the school day. The kids at Plaza Towers Elementary School were stuffing their backpacks, looking forward to going home, playing with friends, eating snacks.

But the tornado warnings changed that.

When the twister came barreling in Monday afternoon, terrified young students huddled together in the hallways, screaming as walls and roofs caved in. Chairs and backpacks swirled above them. The winds and blaring sounds enveloped them. Cars from the parking lot landed just inches away.

Teachers dove onto groups of kids to protect them from falling debris.

It was the biggest tornado they'd ever seen. Described as a lawn-mower blade spanning two miles, it shredded through their town.

A snapshot of courage after tornado levels school

"It was scary," student Julio Rodriguez told CNN. Teachers instructed the kids to crouch down, "and you covered your head with your hands," he demonstrated.

A first responder captured this photo at the scene of the devastated Plaza Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma.

"I had to hold on to the wall to keep myself safe because I didn't want to fly away in the tornado," one little girl told KFOR.

The 17 mile-long twister stayed on the ground for 40 minutes.

By the time it was gone, so was the school in Moore, Oklahoma. In its place was a huge pile of rubble, trapping teachers and children.

How to help

And seven students were dead.

They were in a classroom, Moore Fire Department Chief Gary Bird told CNN Wednesday.

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb told CNN Tuesday that the children were in a basement, where they drowned. But Bird said Wednesday that based on everything he's been told, "it had nothing to do with flooding."

In the tornado's wake, the school quickly became the epicenter of the tragedy in this shattered town, part of the metropolitan Oklahoma City area.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Oklahoma • School safety • Students • Teachers
May 22nd, 2013
05:00 AM ET

High school prom, 50 years later

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

Birmingham, Alabama (CNN) - The class of 1963 crowded in a rectangle on the dance floor, the memories of high school fresh on their minds as the band played in a sea of pink and blue hues.

Aretha Franklin. Etta James. The Temptations. Just what you would expect to be playing at a 1960s prom. Yet the song that drew the most bodies to the dance floor was "The Wobble."

Until this hip-hop song emptied the chairs, it felt as if the auditorium had been transported back 50 years.

But it's 2013, and despite the full-court nostalgia for the 1960s, that decade was one of the most difficult times in Birmingham's history.
Societal tensions over race were so high in 1963 that the city canceled senior prom for five of the city's segregated high schools for blacks.

Today, a half century has passed since the seminal civil rights protests that changed Birmingham and plotted a path for the nation away from segregation and toward equal rights.

Just like that path, the healing process has been a long one.

The Historic 1963 Prom, held Friday and hosted by the city of Birmingham, closed one chapter for these Alabamans.

'A tension-filled city'

Growing up in Birmingham in the 1950s, Earnestine Thomas knew the rules of this segregated city. At a restaurant, she could pay in the front, but had to walk around the back to get her food from a cook. She could shop only in certain places; there were neighborhoods that she knew not to visit.

"As a child, I recognized that it was unfair, but didn't understand that there were laws propping (segregation) up," she said as she waited for a hair appointment before Friday's prom.

Segregated prom tradition yields to unity

She treated herself to a hair styling before donning a lavender dress with a sequined jacket and matching shoes. Lavender was a fitting color, she said, not just because it is her favorite, but because it was the school color at Parker High School.

It was a day of celebration that she and her classmates were denied in 1963.

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Filed under: Alumni • Diversity • High school • History • Prom • Students
May 18th, 2013
06:25 AM ET

Making college worth it

(CNN) - Christine Romans asks former Education Secretary William Bennett about the proposed Student Loan Fairness Act and rising tuition costs.

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Filed under: College • College costs • Financial aid • Politics • Students
May 16th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Students en route to prom help crash victims

(CNN) - About 20 students from Western High School in Davie, Florida, were on their way to prom when a van swerved and flipped on the interstate nearby. Five adults and two children were inside. When their limo screeched to a halt, students called 911 and went into action, pushing the van to free some passengers, and pulling others out, CNN affiliate WSVN reported. Some of the students had emergency training through the health occupations program at their school.

All the passengers had non-life-threatening injuries, and the students - some with blood on their dresses - said they had a great time at prom.

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Filed under: Awesome • Prom • Students
Students occupy college to keep tuition free
Students at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art are protesting a new tuition plan.
May 14th, 2013
09:22 PM ET

Students occupy college to keep tuition free

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.

Students believe the administration’s decision casts a shadow on future students’ education.

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.

“Painting the lobby is a nonviolent action that visually transforms a space by the students. It is also a way to mobilize students in direct action through communal effort,” Kreiner said.
Bharucha met with the students, who have occupied his office for more than a week, although no resolution has been reached, according to Claire McCarthy, Cooper Union's director of public affairs.

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My View: The damaging messages of proms
Prom night is a big deal for many teenage girls. Author Rachel Simmons questions the lessons learned.
May 14th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: The damaging messages of proms

By Rachel Simmons, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Spring may be graduation season, but the most coveted rite of passage for many teenage girls is the prom.

From the latest craze of "promposals" to the minute-by-minute social media broadcast of it all, the rituals of prom form a throwback cultural primer called "How to be a young woman." Teen girls are competing relentlessly to be queen.

The queens of prom are the conventionally beautiful, the wealthy and the heterosexual - always passively waiting to be asked.

Isn't prom just a fun dance that hardworking students deserve? Sure, but it's also an event where girls internalize damaging cultural messages. Those who are exalted on this "once in a lifetime" night offer an object lesson in how modern girls are expected to look and act.Prom is a cultural report card of sorts on how well, or not, young women are doing.

Here's what a bright 17-year-old girl learns as her lace gown drags behind her into the school gymnasium:

She learns that she must have money to attend the prom

Prom was modeled after the debutante ball of the old days, where elite girls formally announced they were ready to date, while a hand-picked bevy of suitors watched. Today, prom is still a rich girl's party.

In 2013, prom spending will rise on the shoulders of a more robust economy. Families who plan to spend money on the big night are expected to drop an average of $1,139. All that cash might be good for business, but it disadvantages the poor and working class girls who can't keep up. Meanwhile, boys can get away with renting a tux for less than $100.

Read Simmons' full column

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Filed under: Gender • High school • Prom • Students
Tim Tebow homeschool bill approved by Texas Senate
In Texas, the 'Tim Tebow bill' might change rules regarding homeschooled athletes playing sports.
May 10th, 2013
03:30 PM ET

Tim Tebow homeschool bill approved by Texas Senate

By Mike Chiari, Bleacher Report

(Bleacher Report) - There has been plenty of negative publicity surrounding quarterback Tim Tebow since being waived by the New York Jets last week, but his success playing in high school is now being used in an effort to gain expanded rights for homeschooled athletes in Texas.

According to Matt Wixon of the Dallas Morning News, the Tim Tebow Bill has been passed by the Texas Senate. Provided it is passed by the Texas House of Representatives and then signed into law, it will allow homeschooled athletes to compete for local high schools in Texas.

The bill is named after Tebow because the polarizing quarterback was homeschooled in Florida. Despite that, Tebow was allowed to play for Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Florida, according to Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo! Sports. Tebow led Nease to a state title, was named Mr. Football in Florida and went on to win two national championships with the Florida Gators.

Read the full story from Bleacher Report

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Filed under: Bleacher Report • Homeschooling • Politics • Sports • Students
May 10th, 2013
01:44 PM ET

Senator wants deep discounts on student loans

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, introduced a bill that would take the interest rate for student loans from 3.4% to less than 1%.

"If the American taxpayer is gonna invest in those big financial institutions by giving them a great deal on their interest rate, let's invest in those students by giving them the same deal," Warren told CNN's Jake Tapper.

Critics say it's not quite the same - student loans are riskier than short-term, bank-to-bank lending. Warrens says loans for big banks are no-risk because they're still "too big to fail."

"Let's make at least a level playing field on those investments," she said.

Student debt delays spending, saving, marriage
Many borrowers are making financial sacrifices due to growing amounts of student loan debt.
May 10th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Student debt delays spending, saving, marriage

By Blake Ellis, CNNMoney

New York (CNNMoney) - Student loan debt is leading some borrowers to put off buying a home, saving for retirement or even getting hitched - and many now regret taking out the loans in the first place.

About three-quarters of student loan borrowers surveyed said they - or their children - have been forced to make sacrifices in order to keep up with student loan payments, according to a survey from the American Institute of CPAs.Forty-one percent of the more than 200 people surveyed said they have delayed saving for retirement, 40% have put off buying cars, while 29% have postponed home purchases.

Even marriage has been put on hold, with 15% of respondents saying they delayed tying the knot because of student loan debt.

The majority of borrowers said they didn't anticipate having such a difficult time repaying their loans, and 60% feel some amount of regret about the decision to fund their education this way.

"[Graduates in debt] start out with an anchor that slows their progression toward future goals," Ernie Almonte, chair of the AICPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, said in a statement.

Read the full story from CNNMoney

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Filed under: CNNMoney • College • Economy • Financial aid • Students
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