Education

  • The Editor’s Desk

    Many months ago, my boss, Jon Meacham, came into the morning meeting with a project in mind. He asked us to launch a cover story on the legacy of divorce in America. Divorce has been one of the more potent social forces in our postwar history, one that's rippled through our culture in ways that are both important and not always fully appreciated. Jon didn't know precisely how the story would turn out, but, as he likes to say, he knew there was a pony in there somewhere. So he asked us to find a compelling storytelling device that would help illuminate the larger story. We gave the assignment to David J. Jefferson, who found the perfect vehicle. David decided to return to his alma mater, Ulysses S. Grant High School in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, to find out how his class ('82) had been affected by divorce. The individual stories are mostly wrenching and occasionally heartwarming. But they all shed light on a generation that was reared on divorce and learned to cope with it. Here's...
  • Spellings Defends Educ. Policy

    Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has had the thankless task of being the primary spokesman for No Child Left Behind. But her commitment has never wavered.
  • Is Flavored Milk Healthy?

    Some parents limit the amount of sweetened chocolate or strawberry milk they give their children because it doesn't seem all that healthy—especially compared to the plain stuff. But it turns out that kids who consumed regular or flavored milk had comparable or lower body-mass-index measures compared to nonmilk drinkers, according to a new study in the current issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. "The take-home message is that limiting children and teens' access to flavored milk due to its slightly higher sugar and calorie content may only lead to the undesirable effect of reducing intakes of important nutrients while having no impact on obesity," says study coauthor Rachel Johnson, professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont."Milk seems to be a marker for a better diet. Over and over again, children who are regular milk consumers have overall better diets," says Johnson. Nonmilk drinkers "chose high-sugar beverages that are devoid of nutrients, like...
  • Today: On the Trail with Obama in Pennsylvania

    MALVERN, Penn.--I'm posting from the gymnasium of Great Valley High School in Malvern, Penn., where Barack Obama is set to speak any moment to a full house of students and local voters. There's the usual ruckus: chants of "Ba-RACK O-BAM-a" and "Yes, We Can" interrupted by half-hearted attempts at the wave and the occasional cry of "Woo!" from an impatient teenage girl. I'll be back with a report after the event, and then it's off to Levittown on the New Jersey border, where the Illinois senator is scheduled to address another high school later this afternoon. Stay tuned for more... 
  • Health: Phys. Ed. Is Not Dead

    As a kid, I hated P.E. class so much that the word "kick-ball" still gives me shudders. It was embarrassing (gym shorts) and, worse, it seemed useless, at least to my 12-year-old self. I was already in decent shape, and although some of my classmates didn't get much exercise outside P.E., the class was no remedy—they didn't get much inside it, either. They were always picked last for teams; theyslouched through the motions; on "fun" Fridays, when you could choose to play ball or sit out, they sat. The only kids who liked P.E. were the jocks, who didn't need it. Why, I wondered, didn't we just get rid of the class?Someone must have heard my adolescent prayers, because in the early '90s schools starting cutting back on P.E., and many now fail to offer their students any physical activity at all. Just 3.8 percent of elementary schools and 2.1 percent of high schools had daily gym class in 2006, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. By comparison, in 1991, 42 percent of kids...
  • Colleges: The Waiting Game

    High-school students just survived what experts say was the most brutal college-admissions season ever—but now it's the colleges' turn to sweat. A record number of applications, a wobbly economy and changes to financial-aid and early-decision programs have made it difficult for many of the most selective colleges to gauge how many of their accepted students will actually enroll. To hedge their bets, some schools accepted more students than usual and also assembled longer wait lists (graphic).Institutions rely on historical models to determine their acceptance totals, says Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, and "most of the time [the models] are amazingly good. But we run into problems during periods of turmoil." This year's dilemma was generated by a record number of high-school seniors—the classes of 2008 and 2009 represent the tip of the baby boom's baby boomlet—who are all competing for...
  • The Working-Class Smoker

    Increases in life expectancy in recent decades have left behind those who didn't go to college.
  • Too at Home in the Stacks

    It's a core value of public libraries that their doors are open to everyone. But patience is running thin with one group: the homeless. With nowhere else to go, society's down-and-out flock to libraries for clean restrooms, comfortable chairs and a safe haven. More than 100 homeless people a day hang out in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C., while librarians in Las Vegas, Detroit and Portland, Ore., estimate similar crowds. According to Loriene Roy, president of the American Library Association, it's a matter of principle versus reality—"the philosophy of serving all people," she says, "and the reality of what happens when we do." Given the prevalence of addiction and mental illness among the homeless, what happens can be unsettling: drug use in the stacks, masturbating at the computers, fouling the grounds. The strain on staff, and other visitors, has become so acute that city library leaders will meet during a conference this week in Minneapolis to...
  • Iraq: A Teacher's Tale

    Even in the sheltered walls of an upscale Baghdad preschool, tragedy and loss are everywhere. A teacher's tale.
  • Decades of Assimilation

    Social scientists rarely get more than a passing glimpse as minority groups struggle to achieve the American Dream. But a pair of UCLA experts have just published a new book that offers a unique, 35-year, time-lapse view of economic and social changes among Mexican-American families. In 2000, Edward Telles and Vilma Ortiz led a team that interviewed more than 1,500 Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles and San Antonio whose families had taken part in a novel, mid-1960s survey designed to gauge how successive generations are assimilating into mainstream America. The short answer: full integration remains a long way off.The original questionnaires that propel the book, titled "Generations of Exclusion," were lost for years before being unearthed during a library renovation project. In some ways, recent generations of Mexican-Americans follow typical patterns blazed by earlier, European immigrants. Countering critics who say Mexican-Americans don't want to learn English, the study found...
  • The Best Way to Teach Math

    A report on math education fuels the debate about the Singapore model.  What is it--and would it work here?
  • Human Nature the World Over? Not So Fast

    Let’s say you’re playing a game with three other people, with each player having 20 poker chips. Each of you decides how many chips to keep for yourself and how many to pool. You get 0.4 chip for each chip tossed into the common fund, even if you yourself kicked in zero....
  • Long-Term Effects of Spanking

    Spanking may lead to aggression and sexual problems later in life, says a new study. So why do so many parents still believe in it?
  • Try Accounting For Taste

    Savoring Cheval Blanc 1982 in your cellar is far superior to guzzling champagne in a VIP lounge.
  • Time to Put the Candidates to the Test

    In this primary season, one major issue has been all but missing in action: education. Most experts agree that No Child Left Behind, President Bush's plan for closing the achievement gap between rich and poor kids, is a noble effort. But it has serious downsides. It punishes struggling schools, turns classes into test-prep factories and has caused some states to lower, not raise, standards. How will the next president fix it? NEWSWEEK asked two experts, the Education Sector's Thomas Toch and Jeanne Allen, chief of the Center for Education Reform, to evaluate each candidate's plan. Then we assigned grades. ...
  • No Child Outside the Classroom

    When no child left behind became law in 2002, teachers suspected there'd be some casualties—they just didn't think field trips would be one of them. Since the federal government's landmark overhaul of U.S. schools, class trips have plummeted at some of the country's traditional hot spots for brown-bag learning. The new emphasis on standardized testing has resulted in "a reluctance to take kids out of the classroom," says Natalie Bortoli, head of the visual-arts program at the Chicago Children's Museum, which has lost more than a tenth of its field-trip business since 2005. At Mystic Seaport, a maritime museum on the Connecticut coast, school traffic has slowed more than a quarter since 2005, while Boston's New England Aquarium has lost nearly the same amount since 2003. Even NASA's Johnson Space Center has started to see its figures stagnate, says marketing director Roger Bornstein, "and stability is not our goal."Teachers blame the bear market in part on No Child Left Behind, which...
  • The Secret Lives Of Teens

    We meet Austin on page 77 of "Class Pictures," a new book of large-scale color portraits by Chicago-based photographer Dawoud Bey, culled from 15 years that Bey spent visiting high schools across the country. Austin has a blond buzz cut, beefy arms and a flat, tight-lipped expression as he leans forward on his desk. "What up?" Austin writes in his accompanying essay. "My favorite class in school is Science. I like to go out Friday nights and chill." On the next page we meet Carolyn, who rests her head on one hand, letting her dark hair drape onto her desk. Like Austin, she accepts the camera's gaze head on, but there is a wistful look in her eyes. Her father died of Lou Gehrig's disease during her sophomore year, Carolyn explains in her essay. "Your memories are engulfed with all that sadness," she writes. "And you try to get beyond that, but it's so hard."Chilling out on a Friday night, dealing with a parent's death: looking at Bey's photographs reminded me of the vast spectrum of...

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