March 14th, 2012
04:02 PM ET

Congress urged to act fast on student loan interest rates

By Stacey Samuel, CNN

Washington (CNN) Freshman Tyler Dowden from Northern Arizona University has high aspirations for a career as a psychologist, but worries about his future have brought him to Washington with a petition for Congress not to raise interest rates on his Stafford student loans.

“I don’t feel that I can be successful with this overwhelming debt strangling me. I can’t really breathe because whenever I look around, whenever I look at my future or try to make goals for my future, I really can’t. I have to take my massive debt into consideration,” Dowden said.

His father is a firefighter and his mother works in retail. He is one of six children, and saving for college has been out of reach for his family, he said.

Dowden isn’t alone. He is among nearly 8 million college students who could potentially have the interest rates on subsidized Stafford student loans nearly double from 3.4% to 6.8% if Congress doesn’t act by July 1.

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Filed under: College • Issues • Policy • Practice • video
Encyclopedia Britannica to stop printing books
March 14th, 2012
03:24 PM ET

Encyclopedia Britannica to stop printing books

By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - After 244 years, Encyclopedia Britannica will cease production of its iconic multi-volume book sets.

Britannica usually prints a new set of the tomes every two years, but 2010's 32-volume set will be its last. Instead, the company will focus solely on its digital encyclopedia and education tools.

The news is sure to sadden champions of the printed word, but Britannica president Jorge Cauz said the move is a natural part of his company's evolution.

"Everyone will want to call this the end of an era, and I understand that," Cauz says. "But there's no sad moment for us. I think outsiders are more nostalgic about the books than I am."

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Filed under: At Home • Practice • Reading • Resources • Technology
March 14th, 2012
02:45 PM ET

How 'trigger laws' empower parents

CNN’s Kyra Phillips questions Christina Sanchez of Parent Revolution about laws that enable parents to take over public schools.

For more information, read the Five minute primer: Parent trigger laws.

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Filed under: Issues • Parents • video
March 14th, 2012
11:59 AM ET

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G: Girl, 6, becomes youngest eligible for Scripps Spelling Bee

Can you say extraordinary?

I suspect that 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison can spell it – and it's one of the best words to describe her.

The young girl from Prince William County, Virginia, has just become the youngest speller eligible to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, according to the event's record books, which date to 1993. Mike Hickerson, the bee's communications manager, said there have been four spellers since 1993 who were 8 years old.

Lori Anne, who is home-schooled, beat out 21 other kids in the county to win the bee, which enters her into the national bee.

The word that thrust her into the spotlight? "Vaquero," the Spanish translation of "cowboy," which is often used in Spanish-speaking parts of the South such as Texas, according to InsideNova.

The paper reported that after one of the last spellers missed her word, Lori Anne stepped up to the microphone, was given her word and without hesitation rattled off the spelling correctly.

Read the full story from This Just In
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Filed under: Elementary school • Practice • Spelling • Students
Five minute primer: Parent trigger laws
March 14th, 2012
06:10 AM ET

Five minute primer: Parent trigger laws

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN)  Last Friday, Florida’s state senate narrowly defeated a proposed “parent trigger” bill.  In more than 20 states, legislatures are considering or have taken action on parent trigger bills, which are designed to empower parents to take action on failing schools by firing staff, transferring students or creating a new school.

How do parent trigger laws work?

State proposals and laws vary, but in essence, if a school fails to demonstrate academic achievement among its students according to predetermined benchmarks (for example, test scores), under parent trigger laws, a majority of parents could determine that some or all teachers and administrators should be dismissed and new staff brought in.  Under some state proposals, action by a majority of parents could close the school altogether or hand over management of a school to a private corporation or organization and re-establish the school as a charter school.

The pros

Proponents of parent trigger laws say that they empower parents, especially those of students in low-performing schools, to be able to turn schools around and provide their children with the best opportunity for a good education. They say it gives parents an option that they currently do not have. Often these parents lack the means to provide other options, such as a better public school or a private school for their kids, they say.

California was the first state to pass a parent trigger law, in January 2010.  The primary force behind its passing was Parent Revolution, which, according to its website, makes this promise to parents: “Organize half the parents at your children's failing school to demand change, and we will stand with you and empower you to fight for the great school your children deserve.”

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Filed under: Five minute primer • Policy