December 5th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Longer school day coming for thousands of students

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - School's going to be a little longer for about 20,000 U.S. students next year.

On Monday, The U.S. Department of Education, the Ford Foundation and the National Center for Time and Learning (NCTL), announced the formation of the TIME Collaborative. This initiative will support more than 40 selected schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee that will be open an additional 300 hours during the 2013-2014 school year. For schools on a 180-day calendar, that would add more than an hour and a half of instruction per day.

The TIME Collaborative, a partnership between NCTL and the Ford Foundation, is funded by federal, state and private funds. NCTL will provide technical support for schools, while the Ford Foundation is offering $3 million in grant funds.

One of the group’s goals is to reduce achievement gaps for children who live in impoverished communities. "More learning time was simply necessary to close opportunity and achievement gaps," David Farbman, senior researcher at NCTL, wrote on the organization’s official blog.
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Filed under: Arne Duncan • Policy • Practice • School funding
College rapes: The new rules
Campuses across the nation are thinking though how to implement new Title IX guidelines about sexual violence.
December 4th, 2012
05:31 PM ET

College rapes: The new rules

By Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN

(CNN) – Georgia Turner grew up in a small town in eastern Kentucky. She studied hard, she played played soccer and she didn't even consider going to a party until she got to college.

The petite sophomore recalls her excitement to start classes at the University of Louisville. She even paid to move in early. Then, one August night two years ago, she went to a party, her first, with some people she'd just met. That's all she remembers from the night. The next morning she felt awful.

[2:30] "I had bruises all over my body. I really knew, it's just a feeling you know and I knew I'd been raped."

For about a month Turner just tried to cope.

[2:40] "I literally spent a lot of the time  making myself throw up  and trying to get whatever happened to me out of my body."

Read the full story and hear the podcast from CNN Radio
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Filed under: College • Podcast • Policy
AFT recommends an entry 'bar' exam for teachers
Randi Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
December 4th, 2012
01:44 PM ET

AFT recommends an entry 'bar' exam for teachers

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) The American Federation of Teachers has issued a report advocating an entry exam for all teacher candidates, like the bar exam taken by aspiring lawyers.

The test, which would be required of all future teachers nationwide, would be given to candidates regardless of whether they are entering the profession through traditional means or “an alternative route.”

The AFT report titled “Raising the Bar: Aligning and Elevating Teacher Preparation and the Teaching Profession”  included a statement by AFT president Randi Weingarten: “We must do away with a common rite of passage, whereby newly minted teachers are tossed the keys to their classrooms, expected to figure things out, and left to see if they (and their students) sink or swim. Such a haphazard approach to the complex and crucial enterprise of educating children is wholly inadequate. It’s unfair to both students and teachers, who want and need to be well-prepared to teach from their first day on the job. At a time when we are raising the standards for students through the Common Core State Standards, we must do the same for teachers.”

The report suggests that the exam be multidimensional and include subject knowledge as well as pedagogical knowledge. In other words, in addition to having to know the subject they teach, teachers would have to demonstrate that they had the qualities to be “caring, competent and confident.”

The report also states the responsibility for setting professional standards and establishing quality teacher preparation programs should reside with K-12 educators and teacher-educators.
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Filed under: Policy • teacher unions • Teachers • Voices
December 4th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Parents stampede school to get their kids in

Parents camped out for days in front of a South Carolina school that has an engineering curriculum in hopes of getting their kids enrolled. (WYFF video.)

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Filed under: Curriculum • Parents • Policy • video
College cuts its tuition by 33%
Belmont Abbey College, a small private college in Belmont, North Carolina, announced it is cutting tuition by 33%.
November 30th, 2012
03:53 AM ET

College cuts its tuition by 33%

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN)– If you’re a parent with college-age kids, you probably experienced sticker shock the first time you checked out tuition costs.  And maybe even a few times after that.

The College Board says that the average yearly cost for a four-year public university for an in-state student is now $8,240.  For a private college, it’s $28,500 per year.

William Thierfelder, president of Belmont Abbey College, says that most students are so discouraged with what he calls the "sticker price" of higher education that they don’t even consider applying to a school they think is beyond their families’ means.

So Belmont Abbey is taking a different approach:  The college has announced that it is "resetting" its tuition, reducing it by 33% next fall for incoming freshmen and transfer students.

The old sticker price for one year at this small private college near Charlotte, North Carolina was about $27,600.   The new price will be $18,500.
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Filed under: College • College costs • Policy
November 29th, 2012
01:55 PM ET

How education could plunge off the 'fiscal cliff'

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Sequestration: The word strikes fear in the hearts of school boards and administrators nationwide, and with good reason.

What does it mean? The term refers to the across-the-board budget cuts that will automatically occur in federal programs in January 2013, unless Congress reaches an agreement by the end of this year on reducing the deficit.

What kind of cuts will this mean for education?

The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) estimates the reductions would amount to over $4 billion. That would plunge education funding into pre-2003 levels, according to the National Education Association.

Why is that so scary? Part of the reason is that America’s schools have added 5.4 million new students to their rolls since 2003, and costs have risen about 25%. Budget cuts triggered by the fiscal cliff could potentially affect millions of students and teachers by reducing programs and services and increasing class sizes.

According to Deborah Rigsby, director of federal legislation for the National School Boards Association, if sequestration happens, each school district could lose more than $300,000 for every 5,000 children enrolled.

“Sequestration would hurt our school districts and ultimately, our students,” said Rigsby on a conference call Wednesday.

Not all of the effects would be immediate, although some federal programs, such as Title I, Head Start, and state special education funding would feel the impact of the cuts right away. Schools that receive Impact Aid funding would also experience immediate cuts.
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Filed under: Fiscal cliff • Policy • Politics • School budgets • Sequestration
My view: Great teacher evaluation shouldn’t be good luck
November 29th, 2012
03:57 AM ET

My view: Great teacher evaluation shouldn’t be good luck

Courtesy Teach PlusBy Marisol Castillo, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Marisol Castillo teaches at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington. Castillo taught in California’s Bay Area, and then at a small high school in the South Bronx before relocating to Washington, D.C. In 2009, she received her National Board Certification. Castillo is a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow.

(CNN) - I’m a lucky teacher.

In the nine years I’ve been in the classroom — at three different urban schools — I’ve consistently experienced evaluations that have allowed me to grow as an educator. I’m a better teacher because of that, and my students have benefited.

All teachers should be so lucky as to experience high-quality evaluation. But unfortunately, they’re not. According to a 2012 national survey of teachers conducted by the nonprofit Teach Plus, Great Expectations: Teachers’ Views on Elevating the Teaching Profession, nearly half of all teachers say they either had not received an evaluation in the past year or did not find their evaluation feedback useful.

Recently I was able to address these survey results in front of policymakers on Capitol Hill. I told them that, according to the Teach Plus report, teachers who have been in the classroom for less than 10 years support a range of reforms.

The report shows that a majority of teachers across experience levels think clear standards of effectiveness are critical for teaching to be recognized as a true profession. Many teachers, including nearly three-quarters of the New Majority, the 52% of teachers with less than 10 years experience, want student growth data to be a component of their evaluations.
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Filed under: Policy • Practice • Teachers • TeachPlus.org • Voices
November 28th, 2012
01:30 PM ET

National graduation rates released

by John Martin, CNN

(CNN) - The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) released a report of state high school graduation rates, which for the first time includes apples-to-apples comparisons among most states. Each state used to determine its own graduation rate; now states are moving toward a common method of measurement.

As Schools of Thought reported earlier, graduation rates for some states have dropped not because students are failing more often, but because the math has changed. The USDOE points this out in a press release on its website: "While 26 states reported lower graduation rates and 24 states reported unchanged or increased rates under the new metric, these changes should not be viewed as measures of progress but rather as a more accurate snapshot." The new data is based on a "four year cohort graduation rate," which also accounts for students who drop out or do not earn a regular high school diploma.

Read "The new graduation rates" for an explanation of these metrics.

In the video, Brooke Baldwin examines the states with the highest and lowest gradation rates. Across the United States, the range of state graduation rates is between Nevada's 62% and Iowa's 88%. The District of Columbia's rate is lower than that of any state, at 59%. Some states, including Kentucky and Idaho, are not using the new method and were not included in the data released by USDOE.

Looking at the data itself another picture emerges – a gap between whites and blacks still exists, but an even wider gap persists between general graduation rates and the graduation rates of children with disabilities and limited English proficiency students. For these subgroups, graduation rates in many states are below 50%, and sometimes even below 30%.

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Chinese flock to elite U.S. schools
Students celebrate during their graduation ceremony at Shanghai Jiaotong University in June 2005.
November 26th, 2012
01:59 PM ET

Chinese flock to elite U.S. schools

By Alexis Lai, CNN

(CNN) - Jay Lin is the embodiment of the American dream - and what is increasingly a Chinese dream.

Originally from Wenzhou in eastern China, he moved to New York City as a teenager. After earning degrees from Ivy League universities - Cornell and Columbia - he secured a comfortable job in a bucolic town in Connecticut.

Now he is helping others in China follow his path, where the desire for elite U.S. education is alive and well.

In the last decade, mainland Chinese have reshaped the international student body at U.S. colleges and universities, notably at Ivy League institutions. In the 2009-2010 academic year, China surpassed traditional "study abroad" heavyweights like Canada, India and South Korea, to lead international enrollment across U.S. higher education, according to the Institute of International Education. The U.S.-based institute's most recent figures reveal that mainland Chinese students increased 23% to more than 723,000 in the 2010-11 academic year.

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My view: Ten myths about gifted students and programs for gifted
November 14th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

My view: Ten myths about gifted students and programs for gifted

Courtesy Pieces of LearningBy Carolyn Coil, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Carolyn Coil is a speaker, educator and author. She works with teachers, administrators, parents and students, offering strategies for raising achievement, developing creative and critical thinking skills, motivating underachievers, differentiating curriculum and assessing student performance. She has taught graduate-level gifted endorsement courses for more than 20 years. You can follow her on Twitter, @CarolynCoil.

(CNN) - American educators have struggled for more than 40 years to define giftedness. Yet even now, there is no universally agreed upon definition of what it means to be gifted. U.S. federal law defines gifted students as those who perform or who show promise of performing at high levels in any one of five categories: general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability or visual/performing arts.

Beyond that definition, there are no specific national criteria for identifying gifted and talented students nor does federal law provide funding or mandates for identification of these students or programming for them. This definition is left to the states.

The result has been a wide variety of state definitions and methods for the identification of gifted children. Some states have specific definitions for giftedness, while others have none. Some states require programs for gifted students, while others do not.

In other words, the availability of programs and services for gifted students depends for the most part on where a student lives and what state, school district or school he or she is in.
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