My View: 8 practical graduation gifts
May 21st, 2012
03:33 PM ET

My View: 8 practical graduation gifts

Couture MotionBy Andrea Woroch, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. You can follow her on Twitter @AndreaWoroch for daily savings advice and tips.

Graduation marks a pivotal moment in every college student’s life as he or she says good bye to carefree school days and enters the real world. Making the transition into responsible adulthood has never been easy, but hefty student loans and a lackluster job market makes it more difficult for our younger generation than ever. With so many money worries to face, a thoughtful graduation gift could make all the difference.

Here are several practical gift ideas to help college grads get a kickstart on post-academic life.

1.  A Check

Money is a much appreciated gift as most college grads leave school with surmounting debt and bills to pay. In fact, student debt in the U.S. has peaked at nearly $1 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and that scary figure is sure to haunt young professionals for years to come. Consider giving a check towards the principal of the grad’s student loan or credit card.

2. Gift Cards

Recent grads face lots of new expenses, whether living on their own or traveling for job interviews. Creating an online gift card registry at will help family and friends find the most preferred gift cards to curb everyday expenses whether for restaurants, department stores, supermarkets or gas stations.

3. Moving Services

Four years of college ensures that your grad has accumulated a lot of clutter. Moving home or into a first apartment is an expense that many overlook, however, the cost of a truck, gas, boxes and the movers themselves can get extremely pricey. Consider contributing to the move by picking up the tab for the truck and provide assistance with loading or unloading boxes and furniture.

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Filed under: College • Graduation • Voices
May 21st, 2012
12:15 PM ET

Perry's Principles: No gap year

CNN education contributor Dr. Steve Perry says he isn't a fan of gap years because that's what summer is for.

Filed under: Perry's Principles • Starting Point • Voices
May 21st, 2012
11:55 AM ET

Get real! School fined $15,000 for soda

From Starting Point: A Utah high school might have to make cuts to programs like music and theater after being fined by the government for soda.

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Filed under: Policy • Starting Point • video
Opinion: Is the Internet hurting children?
Chelsea Clinton and James Steyer says there's evidence that the explosion of computer use has changed the way kids think.
May 21st, 2012
11:24 AM ET

Opinion: Is the Internet hurting children?

Editor's note: Chelsea Clinton is a board member of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit advocacy organization focused on media and technology's effects on children and teens, and wrote the foreword to "Talking Back to Facebook." James P. Steyer is founder and CEO of Common Sense Media and the author of "Talking Back to Facebook."

By Chelsea Clinton and James P. Steyer, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Amid the buzz over the Facebook IPO, the ever-evolving theories about how Twitter is reshaping our communications and speculation about where the next social media-enabled protest or revolution will occur, there is an important question we've largely ignored. What are the real effects of all this on the huge segment of the population most affected by social media themselves: our children and our teens?

The explosive growth of social media, smartphones and digital devices is transforming our kids' lives, in school and at home. Research tells us that even the youngest of our children are migrating online, using tablets and smartphones, downloading apps. Consumer Reports reported last year that more than 7.5 million American kids under the age of 13 have joined Facebook, which technically requires users to be 13 years old to open an account. No one has any idea of what all of this media and technology use will mean for our kids as they grow up.

By the time they're 2 years old, more than 90% of all American children have an online history. At 5, more than 50% regularly interact with a computer or tablet device, and by 7 or 8, many kids regularly play video games. Teenagers text an average of 3,400 times a month. The fact is, by middle school, our kids today are spending more time with media than with their parents or teachers, and the challenges are vast: from the millions of young people who regret by high school what they've already posted about themselves online to the widely documented rise in cyberbullying to the hypersexualization of female characters in video games.

These challenges also include traditional media and the phenomenon of "ratings creep" in the movies that our kids consume. Movies today - even G-rated ones - contain significantly more sex and violence, on average, than movies with the same rating 10 or 20 years ago.

The impact of heavy media and technology use on kids' social, emotional and cognitive development is only beginning to be studied, and the emergent results are serious.

Read Clinton and Steyer's full column

Florida test scores bring more questions than answers
May 21st, 2012
06:16 AM ET

Florida test scores bring more questions than answers

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) - The Florida Department of Education has released the results of its most recent statewide standardized tests, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test  in reading and writing.

Results for the FCAT reading tests for grades nine and 10 showed that 52% of those students were reading at or above grade level, virtually unchanged from 2011, according to the Florida Department of Education.

This year’s writing test results, however, revealed a far different story. Writing scores have plunged. Last year 81% of fourth-graders scored a 4 (at grade level) or higher on a 6-point scale. This year, only 27% did.

Last year, 82% of eighth-graders scored a 4 or higher. This year, only 33% did. Among 10th-graders last year, 80% scored 4 or higher, but in 2012, 38% did.

A 4 used to be the score that demonstrated that a student was performing at grade level, but in an emergency meeting last week, the state Board of Education decided to revise that benchmark to a 3.

The board said it didn’t want to lower grading standards but took action while the state looks for reasons why writing scores dropped so much this year.

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Filed under: Policy • Practice • Testing