'Brooklyn Castle' students seek solutions 'for every problem on the chessboard'
Justus Williams, left, is the youngest-ever African-American chess master, and is featured in the film "Brooklyn Castle."
July 19th, 2012
02:10 PM ET

'Brooklyn Castle' students seek solutions 'for every problem on the chessboard'

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) – Brooklyn's I.S. 318 chess team was the best, always ranked among the top in the game. Some of its young members were just looking for something to keep busy, but a few expected it would help them pay for college or reach chess master status early in their teens.

Katie Dellamaggiore was about to shoot a documentary about the inner city school's unlikely success when she heard from the principal.

“‘Katie, I have some bad news,’” she remembered assistant principal and chess coach John Galvin said. “‘The school got hit - we got hit with some really bad budget cuts. I don’t know if you can make your movie anymore. I don’t know if we’re going to nationals or any of that.’”

“'Are you serious? How is this possible? You guys are the best, how can you not have the money?'" Dellamaggiore said.

“We have no choice but to make this movie. This is the movie now.”

And make it they did: “Brooklyn Castle” will be released in theaters October 19, Producers Distribution Agency announced Thursday. The distribution initiative previously released three other films, including the Academy Award-nominated documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop." Theatrical release is a major feat for an independent documentary, but the film has already built buzz at festivals, including SXSW, where it won an audience award and was acquired for remake by Sony Pictures and Scott Rudin, and at the Newport Beach Film Festival, where it shared an audience award and at the Brooklyn Film Festival, where Dellamaggiore won the award for best new director.

The film follows the school's chess coaches, team members and some of its recent alumni as they face the complications of modern tweenhood, from attention deficit disorder, to school elections, to scholarship competition, to parents who work long hours, to parents who aren’t there at all.  Some try to win as individuals, some just want what's best for the team and some are trying to spare the program from budget cuts. Of course, this is chess – the sport of solving problems.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgOAp7qSUeM]

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Sandra Day O’Connor champions civics education
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor meets with students at an iCivics event in Washington, D.C.
July 19th, 2012
06:18 AM ET

Sandra Day O’Connor champions civics education

by Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) - The retired Supreme Court justice is all business as she walks into our meeting room.

But inside, she’s got the heart of an educator.

Of course, Sandra Day O’Connor will always be associated with her historic “first,” as the first woman justice to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Prior to that appointment by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, she also served as a judge and a state senator.

Since her retirement from the high court in 2006, she has found a new passion – civics education.

How did she decide to become a champion of that cause?  O’Connor says that in her last year on the bench, she was “very much aware of the major issues and debates” being brought before the high court.  There were lots of complaints about the decisions, she says, and many were directed at the judicial branch – with some blaming the justices for certain outcomes.

“As you analyzed it, it appeared to show in many cases that the concerns were misdirected:  There was a tendency to blame the courts for things that were really not a judicial matter,” she told CNN.

The solution to that misunderstanding, she believes, is civics education – a subject she notes has changed through the years.  She remembers her own schooling in El Paso, Texas, and how she learned about Texas government.  Civics knowledge was helpful to her later in life, O’Connor says, and she’s disappointed that today, many schools have stopped teaching the subject.

But she believes young people do have a desire to learn civics because they want to participate in their government, to change things and better their lives. “There is an increasing appreciation that we do need to know how our government works:  national, state and local,” says O’Connor. “And that this is part and parcel of the things that every young person wants to know because they want to have an effect.”
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Obama administration announces STEM teacher corps
Secretary Arne Duncan and the U.S. Dept. of Education plan to identify leading STEM teachers for a new national corps.
July 18th, 2012
03:16 PM ET

Obama administration announces STEM teacher corps

By Jordan Bienstock, CNN

(CNN)– President Obama’s administration has announced plans for a national Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Master Teacher Corps. The effort is part of the administration’s plan to recruit, recognize and reward leading educators in these fields.

Plans are for the STEM Master Corps to begin with 2,500 members  - 50 teachers from each of 50 different sites - and then expand to 10,000 master teachers within four years. The Department of Education said it will work with nonprofit organizations, along with business partners and school districts, to identify teachers for the Corps through a competitive selection process.

Membership will require a multi-year commitment from educators, who will receive up to $20,000 in compensation above their base salary, as well as other rewards. In return, these teachers will be required to offer their expertise and leadership to promote and expand STEM education.

Administration officials say STEM Master Corps members will develop new lesson plans and strategies to improve science and math teaching. They will also run mentor programs for fellow STEM teachers and lead professional development programs.

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Where's the cash for college?
July 18th, 2012
06:40 AM ET

Where's the cash for college?

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) – The U.S. economy is tightening its grip on Americans’ options when it comes to paying for college.

And while parents proportionally contribute the most money toward an undergraduate’s degree, the amount they’re contributing has dropped dramatically in recent years.

The information was revealed in Sallie Mae’s National Study of College Students and Parents, which was conducted by Ipsos and found that Americans are relying on a variety of sources for college funding.

For the 2011 – 2012 academic year, the study found that parent and student income and savings combined to make up 40 percent of the total cost of college.

Borrowing by students and parents made up 27 percent. Contributions from relatives and friends added up to 4 percent.

But grants and scholarships made up the single biggest piece of the pie at 29 percent. And what may raise some concern among the nation’s college hopeful is a recent drop in the proportion of families that got scholarship money.
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Summer learning faces cuts
July 17th, 2012
04:04 PM ET

Summer learning faces cuts

by Jim Roope, CNN

(CNN) Summer enrichment programs in low-income neighborhoods across the country are in trouble.

Nine-year-old Nicole Levine at L.A.’s BEST Summer Program says that, without the program, she would probably just be at home watching TV. Something she'd rather not do.

She could also wind up wandering the streets in her Los Angeles neighborhood as her single-parent mom works two jobs.

Nicole’s grandfather Steven Levine says this neighborhood in the North Hills section of Los Angeles is a high-crime area with a significant amount of gang activity. He says he knows that his grandchildren are safe at the summer enrichment program on the campus of Noble St. Elementary School.

Kids from poor neighborhoods suffer significantly from what’s called, ‘summer learning loss.’ It’s the diminishing over the summer months of skills learned during the school year. Kids from middle- and upper-income neighborhoods have more opportunities to go to camp or travel, or be enrolled in programs that stimulate learning during summer vacation.

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My View: Civility lesson: Are you listening, Congress?
The president of Gettysburg College says that students at her school can offer an example of how to confront an emotionally-charged issue with civility.
July 17th, 2012
06:15 AM ET

My View: Civility lesson: Are you listening, Congress?

Courtesy Gettysburg CollegeBy Janet Morgan Riggs, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Janet Morgan Riggs is president of Gettysburg College, alumna from the class of 1977 and professor of psychology.

Congress has been trapped in gridlock for much of President Obama’s term. Politics seem to consistently trump bipartisan civil discourse.

I’d like to offer Congress an example that might inspire them to move beyond politics.

My institution, this past semester, confronted an emotionally charged controversy with respect and civility. We forged a solution, and we shook hands across the aisle. We even shed a few tears of pride - because it was students who led the way.

Decades ago, the Army withdrew Reserve Officer Training Corps instruction from Gettysburg College as part of a consolidation of military programs. Students who wished to enroll in ROTC remained able to do so at another college about 45 minutes away.

However, the military’s rejection of gays and lesbians and subsequent don’t ask, don’t tell policy ran counter to the college’s values: We welcome all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression. Accordingly, our faculty ruled that academic credit would not be given for ROTC — despite its rigor and many benefits to our nation — because the program discriminated against some members of our community.

This decision was principled and symbolized our community’s support for gay and lesbian individuals. But what about our ROTC cadets? How could we not recognize their hard work and dedication? This was our conundrum and one that raised its head frequently.
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July 16th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Readers debate linking teacher pay to student performance

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

(CNN) - A new law in Ohio links teacher pay to student performance on standardized tests. Traditionally, teachers are assessed through direct observation, and student outcomes in the classroom don't usually affect their pay. Ohio public school districts will now give each teacher a grade, and half of that grade will be based on students’ test scores. These grades, and thus the exam results, could lead to salary decisions, promotions and terminations.

Pay for performance isn’t new, but it certainly is controversial. Judging from readers’ responses to our story, there aren’t just two sides to this issue, but many.

Even commenters who identified themselves as educators have a variety of opinions:
(Note: Some comments have been edited for space or clarity.)

Thor Mentor
In the ISD where I work as a teacher in an inner city school (in a state where they say everything is bigger), similar policy will be implemented starting this 2012-2013. It's a year ahead than in Ohio. There are many variables which account for students' achievement aside from teachers – parents, administrators, politicians, and students themselves, to name a few. I do my job well and work hard but I am not a miracle worker. Let all the stakeholders be accountable for the sake of fairness.

Teach12
I am a teacher and I agree with this new law! I am a teacher in one of the lowest states in the US. I teach at the lowest school in the state and every year I have scores that are some of the highest in the school, district, and the state. Great teachers should be compensated for their hard work. There is no excuse for such a high percent of minimal performing students. I don't care how awful my students' parents are. It's my job to work with what I have and ensure they learn too. Education and a few others is the only job where employees are not paid based on performance. Some of us work extra hard and should be paid accordingly. Those who don't or can't should find something else to do.
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July 16th, 2012
01:20 PM ET

Should teacher pay be linked to grades?

CNN education contributor Steve Perry on Ohio Gov. John Kasich's effort to base half of a teacher's pay on test scores. (from Starting Point)

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The woman who stood up to Joe Paterno
Vicky Triponey, former head of student affairs at Penn State, is photographed on Friday, July 13, at The College of New Jersey, where she's now interim director of student affairs.
July 16th, 2012
11:31 AM ET

The woman who stood up to Joe Paterno

by Ann O'Neill, CNN

(CNN) - Vicky Triponey knows all too well the power Penn State's late football coach, Joe Paterno, held for more than half a century over the insular slice of central Pennsylvania that calls itself Happy Valley.

She experienced firsthand the clubby, jock-snapping culture, the sense of entitlement, the cloistered existence. It's what drove her five years ago from her job as the vice president who oversaw student discipline.

She was told she was too aggressive, too confrontational, that she wasn't fitting in with "the Penn State way."

She clashed often with Paterno over who should discipline football players when they got into trouble. The conflict with such an iconic figure made her very unpopular around campus. For a while, it cost Triponey her peace of mind and her good name. It almost ended her 30-year academic career.

Another person might have felt vindicated, smug or self-righteous when former FBI Director Louis Freeh delivered the scathing report on his eight-month investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. But Triponey sensed only a deep sadness.

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Want more kids to take calculus? Convince mom first
A new study showed a simple intervention with parents led high schoolers to take more math and science classes.
July 13th, 2012
03:40 PM ET

Want more kids to take calculus? Convince mom first

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - Math and science educators across the country spend their summers learning how to make calculus more engaging and biology more relevant, but there's a problem: What if high schoolers never even signed up for those classes?

What if a tough ninth grade algebra class meant they hopped off the high-tech train, and couldn't find a way back on later? What if nobody answered when kids asked, "But I'm not going to be a chemist - why do I need this?"

For all the reasons teens find to stop taking math, science and technology classes, a study published online in the journal "Psychological Science" found a relatively simple way to make them continue: Convince their parents first.

The study, “Helping Parents to Motivate Adolescents in Mathematics and Science: An Experimental Test of a Utility-Value Intervention,” showed a simple intervention with parents led students to take, on average, one additional semester of math and science in their last two years of high school.

"These are the critical years in which mathematics and science courses are elective, and our results indicate that parents can become more influential in their children’s academic choices if given the proper support," the study says.

How simple was that support? Just a couple of brochures, a web site and a little guidance about how to use the information.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and James Madison University mailed parents of 10th graders a glossy, 16-page, photo-filled booklet touting math and science education. The brochures offered up talking points to parents about how to discuss science and math classes with their kids, and examples of how those subjects might be relevant to their lives now or when they're considering careers. If parents were convinced of the value of science and math for their kids, researchers thought moms and dads could convey that utility value to teens.

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