Your comments: Cheating widespread?
March 30th, 2012
03:20 PM ET

Your comments: Cheating widespread?

by the Schools of Thought Editors

(CNN) - This week we reported on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s investigation into possible nationwide cheating on standardized tests.

Read: Report: Test cheating may be widespread.

There were hundreds of comments on this story, many of them focused on different aspects of this story, from security, to teacher evaluation, to No Child Left Behind pressure, to flaws in our culture. Here’s a sampling of what was posted, edited for length and clarity:

WhatNow said:I  know people want accountability in schools, however, when you tie test scores to a teachers’ job security, you set the groundwork for problems. Once upon a time, we used the bell-shaped curve to decide if a teacher was doing their job. For those who don't know, that meant we actually expected some students to excel, most would be average and some would even fail. Somewhere along the line, we decided that all should be passing with high grades. If not, it must be the teachers’ fault. Why? Not everyone will be great in school. Not everyone deserves an A. Everyone deserves the opportunity to an education. This does not mean that all will be successful. We need a new way to evaluate teachers.”

Leila said: “If test scores are tied to job security, we will see many more cases of cheating, especially in underserved school districts where people live below the poverty line, where many kids live in motels rather than real homes, and where many kids are living with relatives because CPS intervened or parents are incarcerated. Exaggeration? No. This is reality. It is a challenge to motivate kids who come to school sick, are battling with domestic issues, and poverty. Try teaching the art of persuasive writing, proper diction, syntax, sophisticated vocabulary and compound sentences to kids who quite frankly have far more important and life threatening issues to deal with when 3:00 comes around. In my school, we are not only educators, but we are counselors, listeners, advisers, and sometimes protectors. There ARE other factors out there involved in educating our at-risk, underperforming students.”

kls817 said: “Maybe we need to keep the tests out of the hands of the teachers, who might be tempted to edit them. Have a third party administer and collect the tests. This does involve a small amount of additional head count, but it is needed.”

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Filed under: Cheating • Policy • Practice • Testing • Voices
March 30th, 2012
01:38 PM ET

Got (chocolate) milk?

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta looks at why one school's attempt to make lunch healthy backfired.

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Filed under: Kids' health • video
March 30th, 2012
11:30 AM ET

Today's Reading List

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

CBS 2 Chicago: School Board Unanimously Approves Longer School Year
Despite protests from the city's teachers union, Chicago's school board voted to add ten days to the school calendar, making it the longest in the country. Some parents also questioned the move in light of the school district's projected $700 million shortfall in next year's budget.

International Business Times: 'Bully’ Movie Rating Change: ‘We Thought We Could Win’
“Bully” opens today without a rating, after its production company failed to convince the MPAA to change the documentary’s rating from “R” to “PG-13.” Anti-bullying activists wanted the PG-13 rating so that more children could see the film; the nation's second largest theater company, AMC, says it will allow unaccompanied minors into the movie with a note from a parent or guardian.

NPR: Alan Alda Asks Scientists "What Is A Flame?"
Veteran actor Alan Alda challenges scientists to define a flame so that ordinary people can understand the concept. Instead of Alda or other scientists judging the definitions, 11-year-olds around the world will.

Edudemic: 15 Ways To Use The New iPad In Classrooms
With the new iPad, users can connect to the Internet, take pictures, record movies, and produce presentations. Teachers tweeted how students can use these functions to create digital content.

Daniel Wilingham: Students should be taught how to study.
The majority of college students study by rereading their notes, which University of Virginia psychology professor Daniel Willingham argues is a terrible strategy. Willingham says that self-testing – the ninth most used strategy – is the best for recall, and should be taught.

There is no student loan 'crisis'
State cutbacks to higher education are forcing some people to take out more student loans.
March 30th, 2012
10:11 AM ET

There is no student loan 'crisis'

by Tami Luhby @CNNMoney

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Total student loan debt has topped $1 trillion ... but there's no need to panic.

Most borrowers have a reasonable amount of debt, and the total balance is not likely to cause major damage to the economy like the mortgage crisis did, experts say.

"I don't think it's a bubble," said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of, a financial aid website. "Most students who graduate college are able to repay their loans."

This is not to say that there aren't problems with student loans, which now exceed the amount of credit card debt and auto loans. Students are taking on more debt, on average, and more than a quarter of borrowers are behind on their payments. And a hefty debt load could delay recent graduates' purchase of a home or starting a business.

But all the talk of a crisis or bubble in the student loan industry is exaggerated, experts say.

There's no doubt that student loan balances are rising fast, bucking the trend of other consumer debt, which fell during the Great Recession. In 2007, the total level of student loan debt was about $600 billion.

But more people are going to college these days, said Sandy Baum, senior fellow at the George Washington University School of Education. This is prompted in part by the economic downturn: When people lose their jobs or the economy turns shaky, a lot of folks return to school to learn new skills or bolster their resumes.

Read the full story from CNNMoney
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Filed under: Policy
March 30th, 2012
05:30 AM ET

Stiff security at Tucson school board meetings angers Latinos

By Thelma Gutierrez and Traci Tamura, CNN

Tucson, Arizona (CNN) – It was the evening of March 13, people lined up outside the Tucson Unified School District office in Tucson, Arizona, to attend a school board meeting. Nine-year-old Nicolas was in line with his teenage sister Juliana, waiting to enter the meeting. Juliana, who is in high school, was there to voice her support for the Mexican-American studies program, which was dismantled this year after it was banned by the state.

One by one, each person had to first go through security screening. It wasn’t until Nicolas, wearing a yellow Batman t-shirt, standing with his legs and arms spread apart while being wanded by an armed security guard, that Roberto Rodriguez, an associate professor of Mexican-American studies at the University of Arizona, took notice of the process. Rodriguez grabbed his phone and took two photographs of Nicolas going through security.

Rodriguez, who is also a syndicated columnist, says he sent one of the photographs to several colleagues. Before he knew it, the picture went viral. It seemed to strike a nerve with some people, particularly within the Latino community, who say the pictures symbolize what Rodriguez calls an anti-Latino, anti-immigrant atmosphere in Arizona.

Read the full story from the In America blog
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Filed under: Issues • Policy • video