My View: Help young Latinos succeed in STEM fields
October 3rd, 2012
04:10 AM ET

My View: Help young Latinos succeed in STEM fields

Courtesy Thomas G. LeoBy Lorelle Espinosa, Special to CNN

Editor’s Notes: Lorelle L. Espinosa, Ph.D., is a senior analyst with Abt Associates, a global research and program implementation firm, where she contributes to the evaluation of higher education and training programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

(CNN) - The recent Mars landing of NASA’s rover Curiosity — and the stunning images it is sending back from the Red Planet — will hopefully inspire a generation of students entering college this fall to pursue an education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Yet for many students — particularly Latinos — those very valuable STEM degrees remain out of reach, practically ensuring that America’s growth in these important fields is stifled.

Despite being our fastest growing demographic group, Latinos remain practically invisible within the STEM workforce. According to the Department of Commerce, Latinos represented just 6% of STEM workers in 2009, in large part due to the fact that only 14% of Latinos hold bachelor’s degrees —  the credential most in demand by STEM employers. Given recent Census Bureau estimates that show Latinos making up nearly one-third of America’s population by 2050, it becomes immediately apparent that Latinos are quite literally our largest untapped pool of talent.
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Education secretary: 'We are at a fork in the road'
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks on the state of education at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on October 2, 2012.
October 2nd, 2012
05:32 PM ET

Education secretary: 'We are at a fork in the road'

by Lindy Royce-Bartlett, CNN

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN) - Education Secretary Arne Duncan believes that America's decision on Election Day will greatly impact the state of education.

"The choice facing our country today is pretty stark.  I believe we are at a fork in the road.  Some folks see education as an expense government can cut in tough economic times," Duncan explained during a luncheon at the National Press Club Tuesday afternoon.  "President Obama and I see education as an investment in our future - the best investment we can make.  Especially - especially in tough economic times."

To get feedback and "take the pulse of people after nearly four years in office," Duncan recently went on a cross-country bus tour themed 'Education Drives America.'  After taking part in over 100 events in twelve states, Duncan says it is clear that "the real work of improving schools doesn't happen in Washington but in cities and towns all across America-where parents, teachers and community leaders work together toward a common goal."

During Tuesday's Q&A session, Duncan was asked what the biggest difference between an Obama and Romney administration in education and he did not mince words.  "I think the difference is pretty clear and frankly it's stark and the country's going to have its say on it: That we fundamentally see education as an investment, and they fundamentally see education as an expense."

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Faith leaders sound off on role of church in public education
October 2nd, 2012
04:21 AM ET

Faith leaders sound off on role of church in public education

By Tomeka Jones, CNN

(CNN) - Dozens of faith leaders from across the country recently gathered to attend The Stand Up Education Policy Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, to talk education reform. The daylong conference was hosted by education organzations StudentsFirst, founded by Michelle Rhee and Stand Up, led by her husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. The purpose of the event was a call for action for clergy to take part in the national movement to transform public education.

CNN spoke with some prominent religious leaders in the African-American community to find out their views on the role faith institutions should play in public education.

Rev. DeForest Soaries, Jr., a senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey, laid out what he believes are three roles of the church in education.

"One is programs. Some churches have their own schools that would be on the programmatic level, after school programs and literacy programs. The second is political dealings with the various political forces that impact and control public schools: Making sure people run for school board, making sure people vote for school board, and monitor what's happening. And, the third is policy: Advocating for policies that enhance the likelihood of success."

According to Rev. Soaries, who was featured in CNN’s "Black in America: Almighty Debt", not every church will engage in all three roles but there’s a common theme for each religious institution and that is “to do something.”
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September 27th, 2012
01:10 PM ET

Education as a campaign issue

Lisa Sylvester reports on the differences between candidates Obama and Romney on education.

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Five buzzwords you’re likely to hear in education this school year
September 26th, 2012
04:17 AM ET

Five buzzwords you’re likely to hear in education this school year

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Education, like any other profession, has a language all its own.  We’ve compiled a short list of some of the words and phrases you are likely to come across this academic year.  It’s by no means all-inclusive, and some of these terms are not new, but it gives you a sense of some of education’s priorities as we start a new school year.

Common Core State Standards, or CCSS or Common Core – a set of educational expectations, or benchmarks that was created by state leaders in education and government.  According to the Common Core website: “These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs.”  Most students will begin testing based on the Common Core Standards starting in 2014, but some districts are already beginning to assess students based on the new benchmarks. Opponents of the Common Core say this initiative is the first step toward a “nationalized curriculum” and national standardized testing. So far the standards have been adopted by 45 states and three U.S. territories. You can see if your state has adopted the standards here.

Flipped classes – Remember the struggles with geometry homework and that lost feeling when no one was around to help?  What if students could learn the lesson at home, then do their “homework” in class with the help of their teacher?  That’s the idea behind flipped classes, not a new concept but one that is gaining popularity. The practice caught on in part because of the success of websites like Khan Academy, which was started by former hedge fund manager Sal Khan, who devised a way to tutor his cousin remotely in math. Students learn the processes after school, watching videos or online explanations that they can pause and replay.  When they come to school, students then demonstrate their understanding of the material by doing their homework under the watchful eye of their teacher.  Some schools have reported higher attendance rates and test scores as a result of flipping.  But some say the practice doesn’t work for all subjects and that student accessibility to technology at home should be considered before instruction is built on flipping.

Gamification – is “the use of game-like thinking and elements in places that aren’t traditionally games,” according to GamifyingEducation.org. For example, teachers might incorporate online badges or leader boards into lessons to motivate students or use gaming techniques and applications to engage students in learning content. Proponents of gamification argue that it’s unrealistic to expect the video game generation to sit quietly in class and absorb information; the old “chalk and talk” method doesn’t work for these students. One way to engage students and help them learn, say gamification advocates, is to deliver the content in a game format. But there are questions about gamification: Is it a student achievement game-changer (no pun intended) or does it undermine intrinsic motivation?
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My View: Myths on American schooling
September 25th, 2012
04:30 AM ET

My View: Myths on American schooling

Courtesy Michigan State UniversityBy William H. Schmidt, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: William H. Schmidt is a university distinguished professor at Michigan State University. He serves as co director of the Education Policy Center, co-director of the U.S. China Center for Research and holds faculty appointments in statistics and education. He has co-written eight books, including “Why Schools Matter,” “Teacher Education Matters” and his latest book, “Inequality for All.” 

Myths have a powerful ability to shape our understanding of the world, sometimes for the worse. There are three myths about schooling in America that have distorted how we view education and compromised our efforts to improve it. Dispelling these myths is the critical first step to ensuring that children learn the content, skills, problem-solving and reasoning abilities essential for today’s world.

Myth No. 1: Everyone has an equal chance to succeed in school.

Americans see our country as the land of opportunity, where with hard work anyone can succeed in life. Education has always been one of the key parts of this idea, providing a “level playing field” so students from every walk of life can go to school, work hard and make something of themselves.

I absolutely agree that education should serve this role, and I wish that today’s system managed to live up to this fundamental responsibility. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. The sad truth is that schooling in America is like a game of chance where the opportunities are arbitrarily determined by where a student lives, the school they are assigned to, the teacher they have or the textbook they’re given.

If you’ve been following debates about education, you’re probably aware that there are big inequities in how much money schools get, how good the teachers are and the kinds of skills children have when they first arrive at school. What doesn’t get very much attention is what I call equality of opportunity to learn, which is just another way of saying that every student should have the chance to learn challenging content.

It’s a simple idea with profound consequences. Whatever the resources, the quality of teachers, or the talent of students, if children are never exposed to strong mathematics (for example), how can they be expected to learn it? If they learn about a topic years after their peers, how are they ever supposed to catch up? Well, the fact is they don’t. Two children could go to the same school and are in the same grade, are both enrolled in a class called “Algebra I” and even have the same textbook, but one could be learning algebra and the other could be learning basic arithmetic.

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My View: Longer school days can work
September 24th, 2012
04:07 AM ET

My View: Longer school days can work

Courtesy Colin Stokes/Citizen SchoolsBy Eric Schwarz, Special to CNN.

Editor’s Note: Eric Schwarz is the co-founder and CEO of Citizen Schools, a nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities across the country. The organization has been recognized as a national example by the White House and the U.S. Department of Education. Schwarz is the author of “Realizing the American Dream: Historical Scorecard, Current Challenges, Future Opportunities,” a widely cited essay examining social change efforts, and co-editor of The Case for Twenty-First Century Learning.

In 1995, in a concept paper for a new nonprofit organization, I wrote that, “…we need to stop bashing schools and stop expecting school teachers to perform miracles.” We know that most teachers across the country are putting in long hours, many of which are off-the-clock, working hard to provide students with a great education.

Sadly, for too many of their students, it’s not enough.

The achievement gap between low-income students and their higher-income peers is almost twice what it was when I grew up in the 1960s and ‘70s. About one in four American students, with much higher rates among minority and low-income youth, do not graduate from high school. In the face of persistent achievement and opportunity gaps, the traditional school day is failing our most vulnerable children.

As a result, schools and school districts across the country are looking to add more quality learning time to the school day in an effort to help those students who are falling behind. According to Mike Sabin, former principal of the EdwardsMiddle School in Boston where more learning time helped the school close the achievement gap, “When you’re letting your kids go at 1:30 in the afternoon and they’re not achieving yet, it’s fairly obvious that using the afternoon is something you have to do.”

Too often, however, in the debate over longer school days, the conversation turns to the logistics of how teachers will staff the extra hours. School districts and teachers unions have gone to battle over the details of how many hours teachers will be required to work and how they will be compensated. The good news is that the burden of a longer school day does not have to fall solely on the backs of traditional teachers.

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September 20th, 2012
01:12 PM ET

ROTC programs return to Harvard

by Sonia Kennebeck and Bob Crowley, CNN

(CNN) It is a scene that has not been witnessed at Harvard in the past 41 years: This week, U.S. Army cadets in uniform performed their 6:30 a.m. exercise routine on campus, the sun rising behind Harvard Stadium and reflecting on the faces of the students.

The Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, better known as ROTC, has returned to the Ivy League school after being dropped from campus in 1971 as a result of student protests against the Vietnam War. Later, the justification for the continued ban of ROTC programs at Harvard changed: The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prevented gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military, was cited as the reason ROTC students, who could still study at Harvard, had to travel to MIT for their required Army courses. Now this policy has been abolished. (Harvard opened an office for the Navy ROTC  in September 2011.)

The Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Harvard was one of the first in the nation. Here they are being photographed on Memorial Day, May 30, 1917.

The Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Harvard was one of the first in the nation. Here they are being photographed on Memorial Day, May 30, 1917.

At the 2012 ROTC commissioning ceremony at Harvard, school President Drew Gilpin Faust congratulated the new ROTC graduates and emphasized the importance of this new military-civilian partnership to U.S. society.

“As Harvard seeks to shape that society and educate its citizens, it must necessarily be connected to its military. We must ensure that Harvard students understand military service as a choice to consider and honor, even if – and perhaps especially if – they pursue other paths,” said Faust.

Kathryn Roth-Douquet, former Clinton administration Defense Department official and author of AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from the Military and How it Hurts Our Country,” has long criticized the ban of ROTC programs from Harvard and other Ivy League schools, including Yale, Columbia and Brown.

Harvard ROTC cadets are doing a bayonet drill in the school's stadium in 1917-1918.

Harvard ROTC cadets are doing a bayonet drill in the school's stadium in 1917-1918.

Roth-Douquet said, “Ivy League schools pride themselves to recruit and train the opinion-shapers and decision-makers in our society and these people need to understand the military. Everything else is dangerous for our democracy in which civilians control the military and need to do that intelligently.”
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September 20th, 2012
10:19 AM ET

Wins, losses and draws in Chicago school strike

by Michael Pearson, CNN

(CNN) As schools reopened Wednesday - the day after teachers union representatives voted to suspend their eight-day strike - union leaders, city officials and even students could all claim a few wins and admit a few losses after a bruising battle that had both sides hurling insults like pro wrestlers.

Teachers were happy to secure concessions limiting a school reform program that they said would harm students and cost teachers jobs.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel walked away with a teacher evaluation system and other changes that he says will make educators more accountable.

And there was even an upside for the 350,000 Chicago kids who had to go back to school after an unexpected eight-day holiday.

My View: The Chicago teachers' strike from an ambivalent union member's perspective

"It was kind of boring being at home, so I'm kind of glad I'm going back to school so I don't have to have any more baby sitters," South Loop Elementary School student Grace Bauer said.

In all, teachers appear to have come out ahead in a strike that gained nationwide attention, said Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and director of its Labor Education Program in Chicago.

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September 19th, 2012
04:17 PM ET

School district bans father-daughter, mother-son events

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) - The Cranston, Rhode Island, school district banned father-daughter dances and other similar parent-child events after a parent complained to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The parent said her daughter felt left out of a father-daughter dance because she does not have a father or a father figure in her life.

Cranston's superintendent responded by banning parent-child activities, including father-daughter and mother-son events.

Superintendent Judith Lundsten said, “I truly believe that no one intended to hurt anyone’s feelings with this, that they wanted to be inclusive, but they also liked these traditional-type activities.”

In an interview with CNN affiliate WPRI , Lundsten acknowledged that finding that balance might be “tricky.”

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