Lessons from famous college dropouts
December 30th, 2011
02:06 PM ET

Lessons from famous college dropouts

by Paul Schmitz, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Paul Schmitz is the author of "Everyone Leads: Building Leadership from the Community Up" and CEO of Public Allies, a nonprofit that advances new leadership to strengthen communities and encourage civic participation.
(CNN) - A college degree can be an important gateway to employment, a career and a better standard of living. But a college degree does not equate to someone's level of intelligence or talent. For those seeking the best workers or leaders, there is a plethora of intelligent, inventive people without degrees who should not be overlooked.

Recognizing this does not negate the importance of a college education - the intellectual knowledge, access to a wide array of subjects and experience gained on a college campus can be transformative. Studies demonstrate clearly that without a college degree, you will likely earn less, be more liable to be unemployed and have fewer opportunities for career advancement.

The challenge is that access to college has become more limited. At a time when degrees are so important to income potential, they are going increasingly to privileged and affluent young people. As the 2010 book "Rewarding Strivers" points out, among those who scored in the highest quartile of a national standardized test, those from affluent families were twice as likely to attend college as those from poorer families.

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Filed under: College • Voices
December 30th, 2011
11:49 AM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

Courant.com: Nearly One In Five High School Students Does Not Graduate In Four Years
Nearly 82% of Connecticut's high school seniors graduated on time last year. About one in five seniors takes longer than four years to graduate, or does not graduate at all, and the numbers are worse for students who are Hispanic, black, poor, in special education or learning English.

TBO.com: 4-day school week is his assignment
A Tampa Bay area school board member is researching a four-day school week as a way to tackle his district's $54 million revenue shortfall.

SFGate: South San Francisco school teaches parents to get involved
A pilot program at a South San Francisco elementary school educates parents on how to get involved at school. Research supports the importance of parental involvement in children's success, and the school's principal says she has already noticed a difference.

USNews.com: Top 10 New Year's Resolutions for Scholarship Seekers
The Scholarship Coach provides a few tips for grabbing scholarships that could help pay for college.

December 30th, 2011
09:30 AM ET

Federal government tracking your kids

CNN's Brooke Baldwin talks to Lisa Snell, Director of Education and Child Welfare at the Reason Foundation, about the tracking of children by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Filed under: On air • Policy • Practice • video
December 29th, 2011
11:30 AM ET

Test your news knowledge: 2011 End of Year Quiz

(CNN Student News) - How much do you know about the stories that made news in 2011? Answer these questions and find out.

Click here for a PDF version of this end of year quiz.

Filed under: CNN Student News • Extracurricular • Interactive • Practice • Quiz
Settlement for bullying victim's parents made public
Phoebe Prince, right, committed suicide after being bullied by classmates.
December 29th, 2011
10:58 AM ET

Settlement for bullying victim's parents made public

By Leigh Remizowski, CNN
(CNN) - The parents of a 15-year-old Massachusetts high school student who committed suicide after being bullied by her classmates received a nearly quarter-million-dollar settlement, according to documents made public after a months-long attempt to uncover details of the agreement.

The settlement was reached with the town of South Hadley in November of 2010, but it was only made public Tuesday after a reporter successfully sued to gain access to the records.

The reporter, Emily Bazelon from Slate Magazine, filed the public records lawsuit on December 2 with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, after first requesting the documents in May.

Superior Court Judge Mary-Lou Rup on Friday ordered the settlement be made public, adding that Bazelon "demonstrated that she, in her role as a news reporter, and the public have a First Amendment right to access the information contained in these settlement documents."

The agreement centers around the case of Phoebe Prince, whose body was found last year hanging in the stairway leading to her family's second-floor apartment.

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Filed under: Behavior • Issues • Kids' health • Policy
December 28th, 2011
04:57 PM ET

Arizona ruling hits Tucson ethnic studies program

by the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Public schools in Tucson, Arizona, face millions of dollars in penalties after a ruling that the district's Mexican-American studies program violates state law.

An administrative law judge found the program's curriculum was teaching Latino history and culture "in a biased, political, and emotionally charged manner," and upheld state officials' findings that it violated a state law passed in 2010. The Tucson Unified School District had appealed a decision by the law's principal backer, then-state schools superintendent Tom Horne, to shut down the program.

Horne left office at the end of 2010, but his successor, John Huppenthal, backed Horne's ruling in June. Huppenthal said Tuesday's ruling shows "that it was the right decision."

"In the end, I made a decision based on the totality of the information and facts gathered during my investigation - a decision that I felt was best for all students in the Tucson Unified School District," he said in a written statement.

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Filed under: Policy
Schools turn to Chinese language classes with help of Chinese government
The plaque for the Confucius Classroom at Hillsboro High School in Nashville, Tennessee is unveiled at the classroom's dedication.
December 28th, 2011
08:35 AM ET

Schools turn to Chinese language classes with help of Chinese government

By Susanna Capelouto, CNN Radio

Listen to CNN Radio's podcast on learning Chinese in U.S. schools from Susanna Capelouto.

(CNN) About 75 students at Hillsboro High School in Nashville, Tennessee, finished their first semester of Mandarin Chinese. Hillsboro Principal Terry Shrader says the inaugural class has been a success.

"We feel like, with the flattening of the world economy, that students who are able to learn some Mandarin and learn something about the Chinese culture have a leg up when they move into college and eventually the work force,” Shrader says.

Hillsboro offers the International Baccalaureate, a specialized high school diploma that focuses on global and cultural skills. Students here have to take a second language; until this year only Spanish and French were offered.

“We have a really strong world language department,” says Shrader, “but we can only expand when we have the resources.”

Those resources came from Chinese Ministry of Education though the Confucius Center at the University of Memphis. The center promotes Chinese language and culture at the university level and at high schools, says Dr. Hsiang-Te Kung, who runs the center.

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Filed under: Practice • Resources
December 27th, 2011
08:10 AM ET

My View: The best and worst education events in America in 2011

Courtesy Santa Clara County Office of Educationby Bill Evers, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bill Evers is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, project coordinator for the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education’s Best and Worst Project, and served as U.S. assistant secretary of education for policy (2007-2009).

As the campaign for next year’s presidential election heats up, we can expect an accompanying debate on how to boost the academic achievement of America’s next generation of students.  This issue affects our children, our teachers, our pocketbooks, and our schools.  Successfully educating our children means giving parents more power over where and how their child is educated, and having policies in place that foster gains in student learning, and bring competitive pressure to bear on sluggish schools. We need to properly educate our next generation of builders, entrepreneurs, inventors, and everyone else.  And this necessitates reform.  Reforming our education system should allow for increased teacher accountability, greater parental choice, and system transparency.  This change is not only long overdue, but we owe it our students and to ourselves.

As a progress report of sorts, scholars on the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education have released their list of the best and worst developments in American education this year.  In devising this list, we analyzed hundreds of events, laws, programs and studies.  Notably, we found that Congress, yet again, is stalling on education, President Barack Obama is engaged in legally-questionable maneuvers, and there have been several setbacks at state and local levels.  Such disappointments show that there is considerable room for improvement; nonetheless, the task force found positive developments nationwide.

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Filed under: Issues • Voices
December 26th, 2011
11:22 AM ET

Today's Reading List

Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

Chron.com: Some HISD students give up winter break to catch up in classes

While some students hang around the house during winter break, some students in Houston are taking a four-day course that will run six and a half hours day in an attempt to catch up.

KyForward: International students make most out of holidays even though they can't go home

With the escalating costs of travel, many international students are opting to skip the long trip home and take on jobs or trips within the U.S.

USNews.com: Make money, connections over winter break

Since college winter break is usually several weeks long, it provides an opportunity not only to recharge but to help get ahead on financial, educational and career goals.

Cool Cat Teacher Blog: 5 fantastic things to do over winter break

The author offers five ways to take advantage of downtime over the holidays.

Charter schools: The debate continues
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks with students during an event to build a playground at Imagine Southeast Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. on June 15, 2011.
December 22nd, 2011
03:04 PM ET

Charter schools: The debate continues

by Donna Krache, CNN

With recent statistics indicating that more students than ever are enrolled in charter schools, there’s no end in sight to the ongoing debate over which is more effective in educating our kids: Traditional public or charter schools. A newly released report offers potential talking points for both sides.

On Wednesday, the Center for Education Reform  issued “The State of Charter Schools.”  According to the report, 1,036 of  about 6,700 charter schools – about 15% - have “closed for cause” since the first charter law was passed in 1992. Among the major reasons cited for those closures, according to the report, are financial, mismanagement, academic performance, facilities and district obstacles.

Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, called performance-based accountability “the hallmark of the charter school concept,” in the report, but also noted the importance of parental choice: More than 19 million parents “have had public school choices they would otherwise never have had,” according to Allen. This is especially the case for those who do not have the financial means to pay for a private education, she said.

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