Editor’s note: Jeb Bush was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007 and is chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
By Jeb Bush, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Kaleigh Fair had to make it work.
The Las Vegas teenager suffers from two different illnesses – one an excruciating immunodeficiency, the other a rare brain condition called Chiari malformation where portions of the brain protrude into the spinal cord.
When spending five hours a day hooked up to an IV prevented her from continuing classes at her traditional high school, Kaleigh didn’t give up on her education. She transferred to the Nevada Virtual Academy, a tuition-free online public high school that individualizes curriculums for students of all learning abilities.
Inspired by Kaleigh’s strength, her twin sister Danielle switched from her traditional high school to Nevada Virtual, as well, allowing her to receive a quality education while spending more time helping her sister overcome two life-threatening illnesses.
The Fair sisters graduated from Nevada Virtual Academy last spring and enrolled at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. After all the time she spent at the doctor’s office, Kaleigh is pursuing a degree in nursing – through online courses, of course.
Parents, students and community members will gather at more than 3,000 events across the country this week in order to celebrate thousands of outstanding students like Kaleigh and Danielle, and the educational options that they’ve utilized in order to thrive when presented with situations that just a few years ago would have kept them on the educational sidelines.
The nationwide celebration is called National School Choice Week 2013. Led by a bipartisan, grassroots coalition, National School Choice Week celebrates the rights of parents and children to choose high-performing traditional public schools, public charter schools, private schools, magnet schools, home schools or virtual schools.
The right to a quality primary and secondary education is something that can and should be one of our most fundamental, uniting American issues – and digital education is no exception.
By Bill Gates, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Today I released my annual letter. Each year, I reflect on what I learned in the last year through our travels and work with the foundation and how that will shape my thinking over the coming months. This year, my letter focuses on how important it is to set clear goals and measure progress in order to accomplish the foundation's priorities, both here at home and around the world.
Setting a clear goal lets you know what you're driving at: Picking the right interventions that will have the most impact on that final goal, using that information to understand what's working and what's not, and adapting your strategy as necessary. One of the clearest examples of the power of measurement was the work of our partners to support great teachers.
In the past few years, the quest to understand great teaching has been at the center of the public discussion about how to improve education in America. But for the country's 3 million teachers and 50 million schoolchildren, great teaching isn't an abstract policy issue. For teachers, understanding great teaching means the opportunity to receive feedback on the skills and techniques that can help them excel in their careers. For students, it means a better chance of graduating from high school ready for success in life.
But what do we mean when we talk about great teaching? In my experience, the vast majority of teachers get zero feedback on how to improve.
(CNN) - As Washington lawmakers try to hammer out an immigration reform plan, millions find themselves caught in the middle, including many students.
With protestors outside, President Barack Obama threw his support behind comprehensive immigration reform on Tuesday while speaking inside a Las Vegas high school with a majority-Latino student population. Some 1.8 million young people could apply for "deferred action," an executive order Obama signed last year that allows people who entered the country illegally as children to remain and work without fear of deportation for at least two years. But the policy change doesn't apply to everyone in their families. One 16-year-old girl said, "It's like being out in the cold and me having the only blanket in the family."
Some undocumented students are trying to get an education now, despite uncertainty about what job prospects or additional educational opportunities will be available to them in a couple of years. For now, they're keeping one eye on their studies, and one on the immigration debate.
New York (CNNMoney) - Workers across America are experiencing completely different versions of the jobs recovery, depending on their education level.
The recovery is favoring the college educated, but leaving behind those with a high school diploma or less."In the recession and recovery, those with the most education are hurt the least and recover the fastest," said Anthony Carnavale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
Workers with the highest level of education - including master's, doctorates and professional degrees - are a relatively small part of the population, yet they're experiencing the fastest employment gains.
About 1.1 million more of them say they had jobs in 2012, compared to the bottom of the job market in 2010 - a 6.7% gain - according to Labor Department data.
Meanwhile, workers with bachelor's degrees - a much larger group - have reported 5% employment gains.
That contrasts starkly with workers at the opposite end of the education spectrum, who are not only reporting they have fewer jobs, but are also leaving the workforce in droves.
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) – The latest round of books you'll be seeing in your kid's backpack and waiting for at the library was announced Monday. That is, the American Library Association named the winners of its annual youth media awards, including its oldest and best-known prizes, the Newbery and Caldecott medals.
The Newbery Medal went to “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate. It's a fictional story about Ivan, a real-life gorilla who lived for years in a cage in a circus-themed mall before moving to Zoo Atlanta in 1994.
In its 75th years, the Caldecott Medal went to “This Is Not My Hat," written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. It's the story of a little fish who tries to get away with the hat of a much larger fish. Klassen also illustrated the Caldecott honor book, "Extra Yarn."
"Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon," by Steve Sheinkin and "Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe," by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, also received multiple honors from the library association on Monday. Katherine Paterson, author of "Bridge to Terabithia" and "Jacob Have I Loved," received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for "substantial and lasting" contributions to children's literature. Tamora Pierce, author of "The Song of the Lioness," won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.
The award announcements lit up Twitter as teachers and librarians streamed the awards announcement live, and classes watched to see how their mock Caldecott and Newbery votes held up.
The awards are big business, too, meaning prominent placement for winners on bookstore and library displays.
“Receiving a Caldecott Medal practically guarantees that the winning title will remain in print and on library and bookstore shelves for decades to come,” the library association posted on its website.
Here’s a list of winners:
(CNN) - A kid raised in a middle-class Boston suburb, Michael Bloomberg took out loans to pay for his tuition at Johns Hopkins University and worked as a parking lot attendant.He learned early to pay it forward.
Bloomberg's first gift to his alma mater was a whopping $5 in 1965, a year after he graduated with a bachelor's degree in engineering.
Fast forward to Saturday, when the Baltimore university announced Bloomberg has now given a total of $1.1 billion. The latest commitment came in the form of a cool $350 million toward a "transformational" initiative aimed at cross-discipline solutions to societal problems.
In a statement, Johns Hopkins said Bloomberg, a former trustee, is believed to be the first person to ever reach the $1 billion level of giving to a single U.S. institution of higher education.
The university's Twitter feed was aglow with information on the gift. One tweet heralded the announcement with the words, "Big News," which might have been an understatement.
Among other things, the donation will fund 2,600 Bloomberg Scholarships over 10 years and 50 distinguished scholars.
Of the $350 million, $100 million will go toward "need-based financial aid" for undergraduate students.
"Johns Hopkins University has been an important part of my life since I first set foot on campus more than five decades ago," Bloomberg said in the press release. "Each dollar I have given has been well-spent improving the institution and, just as importantly, making its education available to students who might otherwise not be able to afford it."
By Brad Lendon, CNN
(CNN) - Schools must give students with disabilities equal opportunities to participate in extracurricular athletics, including varsity sports, the U.S. Department of Education said Friday. And if existing sports don't meet the needs of those students, schools must create additional athletic programs.
Some advocates compared the move to Title IX, the 1972 amendment that mandated gender equity in education and sports programs at schools receiving federal funds. The department’s Office for Civil Rights pointed to a 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office that said disabled students were not getting equal opportunities to participate in sports, a right they were granted under the Rehabilitation Act, passed in 1973.
Denying disabled students’ participation meant that they “may not have equitable access to the health and social benefits” of playing sports, the education department said in a statement Friday.
“Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in the statement accompanying the guidelines.
Examples of the kinds of accommodations the department is seeking included offering a visual cue, along with a starter pistol, to allow deaf students to participate in track races or allowing a one-hand touch to end swimming races, rather than a two-hand touch, which would allow students with only one arm to participate.
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - Think back to the age before GoldieBlox, before gender-neutral Easy-Bake ovens, before “My Princess Boy" or “It Gets Better.” Way before apps for infants, TV networks for toddlers or even "Schoolhouse Rock" on Saturday mornings.
That’d bring you to the early 1970s, when an album in a bright pink sleeve was passed among teachers, parents, librarians and kids. It was called “Free to Be … You and Me,” and record players around the country spun songs such as “William’s Doll,” “Parents are People” and “It’s All Right to Cry.”
When it debuted in 1972, there was nothing else like it - at least, nothing so popular. It was feminist and multicultural; an early childhood education in empathy; multimedia before anybody used the word. There was the gold record album, a best-selling book and in 1974, an Emmy- and Peabody-winning TV special that starred its creator, Marlo Thomas, “and friends” - literally, her formidable list of famous pals, including Harry Belafonte, Alan Alda, Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Carl Reiner, Rosey Grier and young Michael Jackson.
More than 40 years later, there's nostalgia in its opening chords and a legacy that still courses through classrooms.
“Children memorized every lyric and asked their parents and teacher to play the record over and over again,” Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a Ms. magazine co-founder, wrote in the 2012 book "When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children's Classic and the Difference It Made."
“It challenged teachers to face up to their entrenched, often unacknowledged, gender biases and to cast a more critical eye on the books they were assigning, whom they called on most often in class, whom they allowed to dominate the block corner or the dress-up box.”
(CNN) - A Florida mother concerned about safety has donated more than $11,000 so that armed deputies can patrol the elementary school where her child attends, Flagler County Public Schools said Tuesday.
Laura Lauria made the decision to donate the money to the school district after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 young students were gunned down, said Principal Nancy Willis of Old Kings Elementary School.
Lauria did not want to be interviewed, Willis said, and she could not be immediately reached by CNN.
"I spoke to her this morning and she may release a statement later today," Willis said. "We were very pleased because of the safety of our children and employees."
The money will help pay for a "rotation of deputies" to patrol the perimeter and hallways of the elementary school through the end of the school year. The program began about a week ago, Willis said.
The school, about 20 miles north of Daytona Beach, has 1,165 students.
The Flagler County school board is looking into "having deputies at all five of [its] elementary schools," Superintendent Janet Valentine told CNN. A plan to have deputies in all schools will be presented to the school board in February, she said.
"There's been some indication from the sheriff that they could assist with the cost," Valentine said.
(CNN) - We know education can change the world - but all over the world, even in the place you live, there are obstacles in the way of girls making that happen.
CNN Films' "Girl Rising," airing in spring 2013, follows nine remarkable girls in nine countries in their quest for an education. Throughout the year, CNN will highlight their stories, and the stories of others' around the world making a difference in education.
We bet you've got a story to tell, too. Making it through years of schooling and life lessons is tough everywhere, including cities, towns and counties around the United States. Or maybe it's OK for you, but it was tougher for your mom, your grandma, your teacher, your church leader, your role model. Maybe your sister or daughter is struggling now, or your next door neighbor, your lab partner, your roommate, your teammate.
What's your story? We invite you to share your personal experience about a challenge you faced in getting an education, or to interview a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother - any girl or woman in your community - about her biggest challenge, and how she overcame it.
Sign into CNN iReport, record a video or write about the experience and include an original photo. Your story could be featured on CNN.com.