(CNN) - With music and arts education budgets looking grim at schools around the country, some groups and artist are stepping in to fill the void. CNN's Soledad O'Brien spoke with hip-hop producer and artist Swizz Beats and Music Unites founder Michelle Edgar about their work with students in the Bronx - Swizz Beats' home.
"When they have that type of support and energy behind 'em, they're free to float like a butterfly," he said. "You can see them flourish."
Among the hundreds of thousands crowding the National Mall on Monday for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, there will be 26 students from University City High School near St. Louis. The students won an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to witness history, and they'll be seated beside U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Are you in the crowd for Obama's inauguration? Use Instagram to snap a photo of yourself in the crowd, tag it #CNN and tell us why you're there. Or add your photo and story via CNN iReport.
Florida 4th graders rank #2 in a worldwide reading test. Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart shares the success story.
By Shaina Negron, CNN
(CNN) - At age 16, Rob McCullough walked into an LA Boxing gym for the first time. The teen had left home, moving from one friend's couch to another, and now finally felt like he found a place where he belonged.
"I went to the gym and worked out, and worked out my stuff," he says. "That was kind of my safe haven."
After taking his first class and leaving with a compliment from the instructor, McCullough was hooked. "It built self-confidence," he recalls. "At the end of the day, I felt great about it."
Life was difficult at times for McCullough and his seven siblings who were raised by a single mother. Constantly relocating, he remembers how other kids were not always welcoming when the family moved to a new neighborhood. "I dealt with bullying growing up as a kid because I was always the new guy at the school," he says.
By the time he reached high school, a new challenge would shape his future.
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.)
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%.
by Matt Abshire, CNN
(CNN) A fresh fruit and vegetable bar isn't exactly a common option you'll find in school cafeterias, but Rene Sellgren is helping initiate a new program to provide that very idea.
Sellgren is the chef at Spokane School District's Community School in Washington. She is leading the charge into a new scratch cooking project aimed at creating lunches from the fresh produce students have grown in a campus-run garden.
In short, the students pick the produce, and she creates a menu around what they bring in.
"What we're really doing is getting away from cans and bags and already prepared food, and using whole food that we actually do all the cooking instead of it coming frozen or in a can," said Sellgren in an interview with KXLY.
The project is part of a wider initiative by the nonprofit organization Empire Health Foundation to help school districts create healthier, fresher lunch menus for students while minimizing costs. And the idea seems to be paying off. Both students and administrators are excited about the new program that feeds while teaching healthy habits. (KXLY video)
By Rande Iaboni, CNN
(CNN) - Toms River, New Jersey police charged a mother with simple assault, criminal trespassing, and terroristic threats after an altercation with two boys on a public school bus. Rebecca Sardoni, 28, claims the boys had bullied her daughter, according to reports from the Toms River Regional School District.
Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy told CNN today that Sardoni boarded the bus Friday morning and, according to witnesses, confronted two boys sitting in the back and slapped them both.
Sardoni claims she was protecting her 9-year-old daughter from school bullies and that three kids in her daughter's class have been harassing her daughter, even assaulting the student sexually.
Director of Communications for the Toms River Regional School District, Tammi Millar confirmed to CNN that Sardoni did report a bullying incident to the principal of East Dover Elementary School on Thursday afternoon. The incident would have been investigated that next day, "but she stepped on to that bus Friday morning" and took matters into her hands, Millar said.
By John Martin, CNN
(CNN) - When students are sick, many teachers send lessons home. At Father McGivney Catholic High School in Maryville, Illinois that’s 20th century thinking. Homebound teen Alixandria Horstmann uses technology to attend her classes there virtually.
Horstmann’s medical issues meant she had to stay home for about three months. The school already has replaced textbooks with laptops and iPads, so one of her classmates came up with the idea of carrying a laptop from class to class. Horstmann sits in her living room, listening – and contributing – via Skype on her iPad.
Father McGivney principal Michael Scholz told CNN affiliate KSDK that virtually attending school has advantages beyond academics. “The student who’s gone can still feel a part of your school and community,” Scholz said.
Parents: How do you think your child would handle learning via Skype?
Teachers: How would you accommodate a child who wants to learn virtually?
Please tell us in the comments below.
(CNN) - A high school football coach punished a player for violating the dress code when he wore pink on the field.
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