All eyes on Georgia, Washington as voters consider charter school initiatives
November 6th, 2012
04:10 AM ET

All eyes on Georgia, Washington as voters consider charter school initiatives

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) On Tuesday, voters in two states – Washington and Georgia – will be weighing in on charter schools.

Charter schools are independent public schools that have flexibility in certain aspects of education like curriculum and length of the school day. In return for this flexibility, they are held accountable for student performance.

The research is mixed on whether students in charters perform better than their traditional public school counterparts. Some cite the CREDO study from Stanford University, which found that “17% of charter schools provide superior education opportunities for their students.” According to this study, about half the charters did not fare any better or worse than their traditional school counterparts, and about 37% of the charters fared worse.

Others cite research like that found in the “Informing the Debate” study from the Boston Foundation,  which “found large positive effects for Charter Schools at both the middle and high school levels.”

Currently, 41 states and the District of Columbia have charter schools.

The topic of charter schools, including how they are established and who gets to attend them, stirs up a lot of emotion among parents, educators and policymakers.  Because it’s relatively new territory, shaping legislation on charters has become a public tug-of-war. The states of Washington and Georgia have charter school initiatives on their ballots.

Washington’s Initiative 1240

Washington has put ballot measures on charters in front of voters three times before, each one rejected – most recently in 2004, when the measure failed by 16 percentage points.  There are no charter schools in Washington.

The latest attempt is Initiative 1240, which would allow for the establishment of eight charter schools in the state per year – 40 over five years. At the end of that period, the charter system would be up for review. The state-approved charter schools would be free and open to all students and be independently operated.

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The cost of college: A balancing act
Students at Rutgers University in New Jersey protest tuition hikes last April.
April 4th, 2012
01:05 PM ET

The cost of college: A balancing act

by Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) Vice President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke at a high school in Norfolk, Virginia, on Tuesday.  The reason:  To discuss student loans and college tuition.  If that sounds familiar, it’s because the cost of higher education has been a major focus of the Obama administration.

One of the president’s education goals is for the U.S. to have the world’s highest proportion of college graduates. America is ranked behind Russia, Canada, and several other countries in this category, according to the College Board.

But one of the effects of the Great Recession is that it sent many Americans back to school.  Attendance and tuition are up at college campuses across the country, and two priorities of the Obama administration are encouraging this college attendance and keeping tuition costs in check.

Starting in 2014, students who take out college loans will have an advantage:  Many won’t have to pay them back in full.  Part of President Obama’s 2010 health care reform law limits student loan repayment.

In the years ahead, graduates who go into the public sector (taking jobs as teachers and nurses, for instance) will only have to pay back 10 percent of their discretionary income for 10 years.  The government will forgive any remaining balance.  And in the private sector, graduates will also pay back no more than 10 percent of their discretionary income for 20 years before the remaining debt is forgiven.

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Tucson school board suspends Mexican-American studies program
January 12th, 2012
07:43 AM ET

Tucson school board suspends Mexican-American studies program

By Michael Martinez, CNN

(CNN) - Tucson, Arizona, public schools suspended their Mexican-American studies program after an administrative law judge ruled it violated a new state law and the state said the local district was going to lose $15 million in annual aid, officials said.

The Governing Board of the Tucson Unified School District voted late Tuesday to suspend immediately the Mexican-American studies department, marking a turning point in a yearlong controversy over a new state law banning certain ethnic studies.

"The district shall revise its social studies core curriculum to increase its coverage of Mexican-American history and culture, including a balanced presentation of diverse viewpoints on controversial issues. The end result shall be a single common social studies core sequence through which all high school students are exposed to diverse viewpoints," the governing board said in a statement.

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Welcome to Schools of Thought
November 14th, 2011
07:49 AM ET

Welcome to Schools of Thought

Welcome to CNN’s education blog!  Schools of Thought is a place to engage in a conversation on education. Here you’ll see stories and viewpoints about a wide range of topics, from No Child Left Behind to districts dealing with budget cuts to what’s hanging in your kid’s locker.  You’ll get news and perspectives from public, private and parochial schools, as well as homeschoolers.  You’ll hear from parents, teachers and students and other stakeholders in education who have stories to tell and opinions to offer.

And along the way, there will be lessons learned (no pun intended).  Have you ever thought you knew – but were afraid to ask - what AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) means? Are you wondering how to make the most of a 30-minute parent-teacher conference?  Are you a teacher who is being challenged to
meet the needs of a greater student population with fewer resources?  Are you a student who is weighing the pros and cons of a college education?  Well,
stay tuned.  These and other questions will be addressed in Schools of Thought.

In addition, a student’s educational experience often includes those life lessons that aren’t components of the curriculum. Our kids learn from participating in extracurricular activities like sports, clubs and service.  But they also learn about life from challenges that they might face daily, such as relationships, family
problems, bullying and financial concerns. There are teachable moments and opportunities for learning there as well. Our team of journalists, educators, parents and guest bloggers will address these issues, too.

And we’ll attempt to provide some insight into the bigger questions confronting education: How do we convey knowledge that the next generation needs in order to take its place in a world of new economic and social realities? How do we do our best, as educators and parents, to guide our students through their life challenges?

As a parent and former teacher, I know (and you do, too) that no one has all the answers.  We can find a lot that’s right – and wrong – with how we educate our kids.  But in our search for answers, there could be aspects of different educational experiences that offer solutions for your school, your child or you. There might be something you see here that gets you thinking, ignites an idea, nudges you to offer a comment.  We welcome your thoughts and story ideas at or send us an iReport.

Which brings us full circle to what Schools of Thought is –an exchange of information, experiences and ideas. After all, isn’t that what education is all about?

- Donna Krache, editor

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