August 31st, 2012
01:45 PM ET

Your first day of school photos

It's back to school time!  We asked you for your first day of school photos, and you responded!  We're still adding some to this gallery. In the meantime, check out these images of some enthusiastic - and not so enthusiastic - students on that special first day of school!

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Filed under: At Home • First day • iReport
Forging a new meaning for the rallying cry 'We Are...Penn State'
August 31st, 2012
12:19 PM ET

Forging a new meaning for the rallying cry 'We Are...Penn State'

by Mallory Simon, CNN

State College, Pennsylvania (CNN) - A roar echoes through the arena. From the packed stands a chant begins: "We Are." Voices boom louder in response: "Penn State." For nearly 10 minutes, the chants reverberate.

This is not a football game, or any sports event. It is the freshman convocation, the official welcome for the incoming class. More than 7,000 new students are in the Bryce Jordan Center making themselves heard.

They are here.

They are here despite a scandal that has damaged this school's reputation, brought unprecedented sanctions from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, jailed a former football coach for sex abuse and prompted an ongoing investigation into allegations of a coverup by top officials.

But they are here. They are proud. Some are also angry.

As their chants grow louder and they wait to hear new President Rodney Erickson welcome them, some stand. They are decked out in blue and white, with shirts that say "I still bleed Blue and White" or "Penn State Proud."

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Filed under: College • Issues • Policy • Practice
What not to wear on campus
The education may be higher, but the fashion isn't.
August 31st, 2012
04:10 AM ET

What not to wear on campus

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) - Nothing is further from "Project Runway" than a college campus.

It's true that not every lecture is delivered by a renowned virtuoso, and not every gathering is a frat formal. But it's also true that a lot of students look terrible.

You can help the ones you know clean up a bit by avoiding these common sartorial snafus.

Wearing pajamas when you're not in bed

It's hard to say when jeans became too dressy. It was probably sometime in the '90s. That's when people turned to Zubaz. (Zubaz were conceived when Hammer Pants mated with a zebra or one of its predators.) If you wore Zubaz, you might as well have been wearing pajamas. Hence, pajamas in class.

Here's the thing: No woman ever looks back on her college days and wishes she looked worse. Why do you wanna start behind the eight ball sleeping through Psychology 101 in Spongebob PJs?

For your high school prom, you paid $25 for the ticket and dressed to the nines. If you're gonna spend $8,000 a year on higher education, don't dress for Hulu and cold pizza. FULL POST

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Filed under: After High School • Carl Azuz • College
Allegations of widespread cheating in government class probed at Harvard
Harvard University, the oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S., is investigating allegations of cheating on a take-home final exam in May.
August 30th, 2012
07:24 PM ET

Allegations of widespread cheating in government class probed at Harvard

By Julia Talanova and Jason Kessler, CNN

(CNN) - Harvard University is investigating allegations that almost half the students in an undergraduate class last spring may have plagiarized or "inappropriately collaborated" on their final exams, the school announced Thursday.

Following an initial investigation, Harvard's administrative board, which enforces academic regulations, undertook "a comprehensive review of the more than 250 take-home final exams" submitted at the end of a course, the school said in a statement.

The Harvard Crimson, the school's flagship student-run newspaper, identified the class in which the cheating allegedly occurred as Government 1310: Introduction to Congress.

A document on the website of Harvard's registrar's office says the class had 279 students.

"We take academic integrity very seriously because it goes to the heart of our educational mission," said Michael D. Smith, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, in a written statement.

Last semester during grading, "the faculty member teaching the course questioned the similarities between a number of exams," according to the statement.

The board then reviewed the questionable exams and interviewed the students who submitted them, eventually launching a wider review along with the class's professor, the statement said.

That review is still underway.

A copy of the take-home exam found on Harvard's website shows that it laid out a series rules for students to follow.

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Filed under: Cheating • College • Policy • Practice
My View: Teachers deserve real merit pay
"Teachers want to be recognized and rewarded when they do well. Who doesn’t?" teacher Colleen McGurk writes.
August 30th, 2012
04:10 AM ET

My View: Teachers deserve real merit pay

Courtesy Colleen McGurkBy Colleen McGurk, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Colleen McGurk is a special education teacher with seven-years experience in the New York City Public School System. She holds master’s degrees in educational leadership and childhood education, with dual certification in special education and general education. She is a member of Educators 4 Excellence.

(CNN) - After reading Diane Ravitch’s post on this blog, I felt compelled to respond. As a teacher with seven years in a special education and integrated co-teaching classroom in New York City, I have heard a variety of excuses as to why our schools are not performing at a higher, and more consistent level. Poverty is certainly a piece of the puzzle and it must be addressed. But one of the best ways to reverse poverty is through an excellent education. And when it comes to education, no group is better prepared to lead than teachers. It’s time policy makers, elected officials and even pundits help elevate our voices in these critical debates. It’s one of the reasons I’ve joined a teacher-led group called Educators for Excellence, a national organization committed to ensuring teachers’ voices are heard in the policy debates that affect our classrooms and careers.

Most of my fourth-grade students come from homes that are well below the federal poverty line. Living in poverty makes my students’ lives harder, but that doesn’t stop me from challenging them on a daily basis. Whether it is in reading, writing, math or a game of basketball, every time I raise the bar, they step up. My students need to be challenged and engaged more so than other kids who have more solid support systems outside the classroom.

Teachers are a large part of the solution, but we need the same support, and high expectations that we have for our students.

I’ve worked in other industries and I truly have unmatched respect for our profession. Prior to teaching, I lived in Brazil and worked as a technology consultant for international companies. Before that, I was the project manager at Harvard Business School’s Executive Education. Both positions were incredibly competitive in terms of work ethic and salaries. Those environments inspired my colleagues and me to do our best. And that’s where Ravitch’s opinion on merit pay and mine veer off in different directions.


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Filed under: Issues • Teachers
My view: Obama, Romney need to know one thing about early childhood education – start over
August 29th, 2012
03:39 AM ET

My view: Obama, Romney need to know one thing about early childhood education – start over

Courtesy Phyllis BretholtzBy Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Nancy Carlsson-Paige is professor emerita at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she taught teachers for more than 30 years and was a founder of the University’s Center for Peaceable Schools.  A strong advocate for public education, Nancy speaks and writes on a variety of education and parenting topics. Her most recent book is ”Taking Back Childhood: A Proven Roadmap for Raising Confident, Creative, Compassionate Kids.”

(CNN) - Here’s what I would say to the presidential candidates (in case they ask me) about what we need to do to give the best education possible to our nation’s youngest members.

I would start talking in a pretty loud voice to make sure they can hear:  You are going in the wrong direction with policy-making for early childhood education! Please back up and start over.

And this time, put early childhood educators at the head of the policy-making table.

Most classrooms for young kids today are driven by a myriad of developmentally inappropriate standards-based tests and checklists. Policy mandates are causing a pushdown of academic skills to 3, 4 and 5 year olds that used to be associated with first-graders through third-graders. Young kids are expected to learn specific facts and skills at specified ages, such as naming the letters and counting by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s.

This has led to more teacher-directed “lessons” and a lot more rote learning by kids who try to learn what’s required but don’t really understand.

Doing the math behind homeschooling
August 28th, 2012
07:51 AM ET

Doing the math behind homeschooling

by Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) – Public, private, parochial, charter schools: There's no shortage of options on where to send your children for their education.

But a growing number of Americans are choosing not to send them anywhere at all, opting instead to educate them at home.

The National Center for Education Statistics says that 1.7 percent of kids were homeschooled in 1999, 2.2 percent in 2003, and 2.9 percent in 2007. Today, that figure is at 4 percent, according to an article published at

So it appears that the homeschooling growth rate is more exponential than it is steady.

Most parents aren't certified teachers, so it stands to reason why some question the effectiveness of a homeschool education. But the Home School Legal Defense Association, an advocacy group in favor of homeschooling, reported in 2009 that homeschooled students averaged 37 percentile points higher on standardized tests than their public school counterparts. backs that up, saying that while students in traditional schools mark the 50th percentile on standardized tests, students who are “independently educated” score between the 65th and 89th percentile.

Of course, there’s a time commitment involved in homeschooling that many families simply can’t make. If a single parent has a full-time job – or if both parents do – setting aside several hours a day to educate a child simply isn’t feasible.

And the arguments against homeschooling – from varying state requirements to reduced social interaction among peers to a lack of student competition – can be challenging issues to address.

But if the number of kids who are homeschooled continues to rise, it may signal a noteworthy trend.

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Filed under: At Home • Carl Azuz • Homeschooling • School choice
August 27th, 2012
04:52 PM ET

Students' Obama cartoons spark uproar

A teacher was fired after hanging what some are calling offensive political cartoons in the school hallway. WDSU video

What do you think?  Do you agree or disagree with the decision to fire the teacher over this assignment? Watch the video and post your comment below.

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Filed under: Issues • Policy • Practice • video
August 27th, 2012
04:09 PM ET

September's legacy: Taking on Harvard in a wheelchair

by Ben Mattlin, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Ben Mattlin is the author of "Miracle Boy Grows Up: How the Disability Rights Revolution Saved My Sanity," a memoir about his life with spinal muscular atrophy.

(CNN) - For many, back-to-school is a season of anticipation, nostalgia, and shopping. For me, it evokes memories of an unsung historical event: the integration of Harvard.

No, I'm not talking about racial integration; I'm talking about the full inclusion of students with disabilities.

When I entered Harvard College as a freshman in 1980, it happened to coincide with a new requirement - all institutions receiving federal funds had to become fully accessible under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

I was a 17-year-old lifelong wheelchair-user, born with a neurological condition called spinal muscular atrophy. I'd never walked or stood and my arms were weak as a baby's. But, as my parents often said, there was nothing wrong with my head.

I had little awareness of the precedent I was setting.

At 17, I was too self-centered for that. I was preoccupied with how I'd cope my first time living away from my parents, depending on full-time, live-in personal-care attendants. Yet I had an Ivy League freshman's cockiness, too. Somehow I'd manage. I'd always managed before, hadn't I?

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Filed under: At Home • Policy • Practice • Voices
Study: School vouchers have positive effect on college enrollment for African-Americans
August 27th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Study: School vouchers have positive effect on college enrollment for African-Americans

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) - A recently released study by the Brookings Institution at Harvard has stirred up the debate over school choice and vouchers.

In some districts and states, parents can get vouchers to pay for their children’s education.  Parents may choose to send their children to religious or private schools using the vouchers as payment for tuition.  Much of the research surrounding the effectiveness of vouchers centers on more immediate outcomes, such as test scores.

The Brookings study was based on data collected on students who were recipients of vouchers from the privately funded New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation program.  In 1997, the foundation offered three-year scholarships of up to $1,400 per year to 1,000 low-income families whose children were either entering first grade or were already in public schools in second through fifth grades.  The Brookings study claims to be the first that used “a randomized experiment to measure the impact of school vouchers on college enrollment.”  It also claims to be one of only a few studies to track longer-term outcomes, years after students received their first vouchers.

Overall, the study found no effect on college enrollment, except among African-Americans, where there was significant impact.


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Filed under: After High School • College • School choice
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