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    Quiz: Guess Which Celebs Were High-School Nerds?

    Can you guess which of America's favorite entrepreneurs, celebrities, and athletes were nerds in high school? Take our quiz to find out what these stars were like as teens and where their high school ranks on NEWSWEEK's 2010 America's Best High Schools list.
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    Charter Schools Often Worse Than Public Schools

    Some 15 of NEWSWEEK’s top 100 public high schools are charter schools. Since charter schools amount to only about 4 percent of all public schools, that would seem to suggest that charter schools are a runaway success story, right?
  • Breaking the Teacher Unions' Monopoly

    As a result of a revolutionary new contract, teachers in who are rated incompetent can be fired immediately—a practice common in industry but unheard of in American public schools.
  • Pink Slips Latest Proof of Anti-Spending Pressure

    Nobody likes the prospect of financially pressed school districts handing out thousands of pink slips to teachers, but Democrats’ proposal for a $23 billion bailout attracted so many critics early on that it seemed doomed from the start, despite energetic lobbying by teachers' unions and congressional educational leaders....
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    In Defense of Teachers

    For the vast majority of public-school teachers, so much of their job is out of their control that asking them to be held accountable for their students’ performance is tantamount to blaming car salesmen for Toyota’s accelerator problems.
  • Book Q&A: 'Making Ideas Happen'

    Thomas Edison said genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration. Starting a new business takes more than just an idea; executing it is what counts. In his new book, Making Ideas Happen, author Scott Belsky explains how creative types need to learn how to get things done.
  • Arne Duncan Dodges Standardized Test Question

    Secretary Arne Duncan went on CNN this morning to promote the Department of Education's newly expanded Teacher Incentive Fund, which will award $437 million in grants to educators who markedly improve student performance. The measuring stick? According to an official DOE press release, the proposed incentive plans must "use fair and transparent evaluations based on multiple measures including student growth." ...
  • By The Numbers: Investing In Innovation

    Just as the rest of the world is prioritizing innovation, American businesses are de-emphasizing it and focusing on quick-payback investments, according to a new study of corporate priorities from the Boston Consulting Group: 92 Percentage of Chinese firms that say innovation is a top priority, up from 70percent in 2008. 79 Percentage of Indian firms that say innovation is a top priority, up from 73percent in 2008. 76 Percentage of French and British firms that say innovation is a top priority, up from 63percent in 2008. 61 Percentage of U.S. firms that say innovation is a top priority, down from 63percent in 2008. BCG 2010 Senior Executive Innovation Survey
  • Will Obama Take Next Step on Teachers?

    States and school districts across the country are about to lay off boatloads of teachers if something isn't done soon. Worse, outdated seniority rules mean that many of the best younger teachers will lose their jobs first. Some "teachers of the year" have already received pink slips. Fortunately there's something we can do about it if Washington has the guts. ...
  • Now That the Arizona Immigration Bill Is Law, What Next?

    Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer just signed into law the controversial immigration bill that has drawn national scrutiny and triggered furious protests. "I firmly believe it represents what's best for Arizona," she said. The bill "strengthens the laws of our state. It protects all of us." And, she added, "it does so while ensuring the constitutional rights of all in Arizona remain solid, stable, and steadfast."...
  • Why Obama Shouldn't NOT Pick an Ivy League Justice

    Finally, Democrats and Republicans agree on something. Too bad it's not something worth agreeing on. In Washington, D.C., a bipartisan consensus seems to be forming around the idea that President Obama should choose a judge without an Ivy League education to replace John Paul Stevens. Last Sunday, Bill Kristol--who went to Harvard (both undergrad and grad), married a fellow Harvard alum, and sent his son to Harvard--urged the president via FOX News to select a non-Ivyite for the post, saying that "it would be good to have a nominee that stood up against powerfulinterests like the elite law schools, which... have done a lot of damage." Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported a few days later that "many" Senate Democrats have a "particular preference" for "a nominee who comes from outside the usual background of Ivy League law schools." As Chuck Schumer--Harvard College, Harvard Law--put it, "I've always liked someone with...
  • A New Reason Not to Teach Evolution to Kids: It's 'Philosophically Unsatisfactory'

    Here is a vignette from a small newspaper  that will sound familiar to Southerners like me who were taught creationism in school:Mark Tangarone, who teaches third, fourth, and fifth grade students in the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program at Weston Intermediate School, said he is retiring at the end of the current school year because of a clash with the school administration over the teaching of evolution . . . In an e-mail to Mr. Tangarone dated Sept. 8, 2008, [the school superintendent] rejected the basic program, citing for the most part the teaching of evolution: "While evolution is a robust scientific theory, it is a philosophically unsatisfactory explanation for the diversity of life. I could anticipate that a number of our parents might object to this topic as part of a TAG project . . . The TAG topics need to be altered this year to eliminate the teaching of Darwin's work and the theory of evolution." And here is something that makes this story a bit less...
  • D.C.’s Groundbreaking Teachers' Contract Will Boost District’s National Prominence

    News today that D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and AFT President Randi Weingarten have at last reached a tentative agreement on a ground-breaking teachers' contract for teachers in the nation’s capital comes with an added advantage for D.C. schools: it likely boosts their chances of winning the next round of the Race to the Top competition. ...
  • A New High Bar for School Reform In Florida

    The White House recently crowned its first Race to the Top winners, awarding Delaware and Tennessee millions of dollars to overhaul their public-school systems. The states beat out dozens of others by passing laws that tie teacher evaluations to student performance and make it easier to fire bad educators. Bold as they sound, however, the reforms feel almost timid next to what Florida—which didn't win any federal money in the first round of the grant contest—has cooking for its next proposal.Late last month, the Senate approved a bill that would make Florida the first state to abolish tenure and replace seniority-based pay with a system that pegs each teacher's annual raise to a performance review—half of which will be based on test scores. It's an "all-out assault" on educators, according to the state's largest school union. But with support from the governor and a Republican majority in the house, the bill appears destined to become law. It may also become a benchmark for Race to...
  • As Race to the Top Winners Announced, Spotlight Now Turns to Losers

    Delaware and Tennessee, two states that have aggressively pursued school reform, are the winners of the first round of the U.S. Department of Education’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition. Because the awards are based on student population, Delaware will win $100 million and Tennessee $500 million at a time when most recession-weary states are scrambling to close widening budget gaps.The fact that only two of the 16 finalists made the last cut was cheered by reformers, who publicly lobbied the DOE to set the bar very high, and award only those states that made a massive commitment to change. Tennessee exhibited its determination to win by reconvening its legislature to push through bills removing its cap on charter schools, as well as overhauling its teacher-evaluation system to include student achievement data, both key requirements in the competition. Delaware was rewarded for a decade of steady progress toward comprehensive reform.But maybe even more interesting is the...
  • Meet Your New Doctor: The Three-Year Medical Student

    Last week it was revealed that for the first time in years, there's been an increase in young doctors going into primary care. That may have a lot to do with new scholarships for students interested in that field. (One of the reasons young doctors tend to shy away from primary care is that four years of medical school can cost an awful lot of money—cash that's hard to pay back if your salary is in the mid-$100,000s, compared with the $400,000-something a doc can make as a specialist.) But, as we noted, scholarships alone won't drive enough students into primary care to prevent a shortage of those doctors in the near future. We need more incentives, and innovative ones....
  • Another Reason to Take SAT Prep: Get More for Your Eggs

    A younger friend had mentioned that when she was an undergraduate at a public college her eggs were worth $3,000 (judging by what ads placed by fertility clinics in the student paper offered), but when she went to Harvard and then Columbia (as a grad student) they were suddenly worth $8,000. Same eggs....
  • Surging Numbers of College Applicants Putting Pressure on Direct-Loan Debate

    It’s never seemed like much of a debate. Should the government spend $61 billion over the next 10 years to continue to subsidize the private lenders who have long acted as middlemen for student loans that are guaranteed by the federal government? Or should we cut out the private lenders and completely convert to the government’s direct-loan program, which already provides about half these college loans at a cheaper cost, and funnel the savings into programs that help low-income students finance their education and encourage colleges to do more to help them graduate and find jobs?A showdown on the issue, one of the Obama administration’s top education goals, is expected next week now that the student-loan proposal has been bundled up with the administration’s health-care bill into a single package. Both initiatives will need only a simple majority to pass both the House and Senate, but neither house has yet nailed down the votes they need. Private lenders, determined to keep the...
  • Claims of Resegregation in North Carolina

    As education secretary Arne Duncan begins his review of equality in the nation's schools—he recently called it the "civil-rights issue of our generation"—he may want to take a close look at North Carolina. Previously a model of desegregation, the state's classrooms have begun to divide again along racial lines. In Charlotte, federally mandated busing ensured balance until 1999, when a court ruled that integration had been accomplished. Since then the number of 90 percent–minority schools has jumped almost fivefold. In Wayne County, one high school is now 99 percent African-American, which prompted the NAACP to file a federal complaint alleging "apartheid education." And last month in Wake County, a newly elected school board voted to end an income-based diversity program that has been copied across the country. "I think it's intentional race discrimination," says Mark Dorosin, a senior attorney at the University of North Carolina's Center for Civil Rights. (A spokesperson for Gov....
  • March Academic Madness

    On the eve of March Madness, Education Secretary Arne Duncan used his bully pulpit Wednesday to lobby the NCAA to ban from post-season play any college that fails to graduate at least 40 percent of its players.If such a policy were in place right now, a dozen teams including top-seeded Kentucky, which graduates only 31 percent of its players, would be out of contention. Other men's basketball teams that would be barred include Maryland (8 percent graduation rate), California (20 percent), Arkansas–Pine Bluff (29 percent), Washington (29 percent), Tennessee (30 percent), Kentucky, Baylor (36 percent), Missouri (36 percent), New Mexico State (36 percent), Clemson (37 percent), Georgia Tech (38 percent), and Louisville (38 percent), according to the latest athletes' graduation survey done by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University Central Florida.And what if there was an alternative universe where the NCAA tournament played out based not on the...
  • Texas: Promise in Paying for Grades

    As President Obama looks to overhaul education policy, he might consider a simple fix: paying students for grades. Backed by private donors, hundreds of schools nationwide have tried a pay-for--performance approach in the last decade. But even as the practice has spread, psychologists have attacked it as shortsighted, saying it doesn't cultivate a lifelong love of learning. Legislators, wary of the optics, have steered clear, citing the need for further research.Now, in the first long-term study of its kind, a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research may provide some answers. According to the report, Texas high-school students who earned cash for passing Advanced Placement exams showed not only better GPAs, but also bumps in college attendance, performance, and the likelihood of earning their degrees. The effects were most pronounced among minorities, with African--American students 10 percent more likely to enter college, and 50 percent more likely to...
  • Evan Bayh Wants his Lasting Achievement to be Stifling Student Loan Reform

    Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) cast his impending retirement as an expression of disgust with Congress to do the people's business. So now that he's liberated from the obligations of raising money and similar grimy political considerations, we can expect Bayh to spend his remaining months in the World's Greatest Deliberative Body working with apolitical, high-minded intentions to do the people's business. ...
  • Pursuing a Liberal Arts Education in China

    Like many top students in Chinese high schools, Chen Yongfang dreamed of attending college in the United States. But unlike many of his classmates at Shanghai's Foreign Languages High School, Chen did not set his sights on Harvard, Yale, or any of the other Ivy League schools or big research universities long coveted by the Chinese. Instead he applied to Bowdoin College, a small, elite liberal-arts college in Maine. Chen received a full scholarship to study psychology, and he later added economics as a second major.Now in his senior year, Chen has become such a devotee of the liberal-arts approach that he's made it his mission to spread the word throughout China. He has coauthored a book called A True Liberal Arts Education, which essentially explains the little-known concept to Chinese students and their parents. "Most Chinese people only know about Harvard, Yale, and Princeton," he says over coffee in a Shanghai café during his winter vacation. Though there have been many books...
  • A GOP Plan for Deficit Reduction

    I've been hard on congressional Republicans recently for pandering to voters' ignorance by offering politically appealing but irresponsible slogans instead of a credible conservative vision of how to meet America's challenges, even those they harp on Obama for failing to address, such as our rising budget deficits. So, it is only fair that I praise Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin for coming forward with a proposal that could actually reduce long-term deficits. ...
  • The New Abstinence-Education Study Is Good News. So Why Are Liberals Freaking Out?

    The first peer-reviewed study to show abstinence education to be successful was published yesterday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. And, to put it succinctly, the liberal blogosphere is not thrilled.“According to this study, abstinence-only education might work,” quips one blogger at Feministing. “And the operative word here is might, as in, sometimes, maybe, coupled with other strategies or sometimes never.” The Guttmacher Institute does a thorough, point-by-point takedown of the study, noting that it “essentially leaves intact the significant body of evidence showing that abstinence-only-until-marriage programming that met previous federal guidelines is ineffective.” And at AlterNet—well, you can basically figure out its take from the headline Why We Should Disregard a New Study Showing Abstinence Ed Works. The general meme circulating on liberal blogs has basically been: this study may indicate abstinence-only education worked in one instance, but it...
  • Next Bunch of Obama Education Reforms to Offer More Carrots

    When the Obama administration first proposed having states duke it out for a share of a $4 billion education-reform fund, critics expected the whole enterprise to either be largely ignored or dissolve into political infighting. But instead, the Race to the Top competition has proved so successful in motivating states to accelerate their education-reform efforts that the administration has new plans to offer such competitions on an annual basis. President Obama will also announce tonight that the Department of Education will be offering a new competition to push states to create more and better preschool programs. During a briefing Tuesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the country doesn’t “need any more studies” to prove that high-quality preschool education can significantly close the achievement gap between rich and poor. Instead, he said, the country just needs to offer such programs to more kids. The president “wants to dramatically increase access and give kids a...
  • Why Bush’s Abstinence-Only Policies Are (Probably) Not to Blame for the Teen-Pregnancy Increase

    The first increase in teen pregnancy in more than a decade has, unsurprisingly, led many to place blame on Bush’s heavy funding of abstinence-only education. The Guttmacher Institute report that identified the teen-pregnancy increase suggests that it has to do with "the growth of abstinence-only sex education programs at the expense of comprehensive programs." Katie Couric made a similar link on last night’s CBS News, and, over at Feminste, one of the most-read feminist blogs, they're putting it even more bluntly: ...
  • How Obama Will Keep Pushing Education

    President Obama’s aggressive push for education reform has been one of his few domestic success stories, so it’s not surprising that he’s decided to build on that with a 6.2 percent increase in federal education spending next year. During his State of the Union speech tonight, Obama will specify that the new money will be targeted to expand college access, adult education, K–12 reform, and early learning, administration officials said. Part of the money will be used to encourage states to work together to develop higher national standards, which in turn will be used to encourage states and local school districts to develop more ambitious expectations and curricula for students and more meaningful tests. The money is also expected to help revamp former president George W. Bush’s hallmark education program, No Child Left Behind, which has come under considerable criticism since its introduction because of its emphasis on testing and its unfunded mandates. Obama is expected to maintain...
  • The Real Issue Behind the Rhee Flap: Why Can't Schools Fire Bad Teachers?

    Michelle Rhee, the tough-talking D.C. schools chancellor, is used to taking her lumps from the press, the teachers' unions, and city politicians as she tries to overhaul one of the nation's worst public-school systems. But this week she's been under siege after a controversial quote about teachers molesting students made it into print. Rhee is fighting back, arguing the quote was taken out of context, but the whole episode highlights a bigger problem in districts all over the country: why can't a school system fire teachers who abuse kids or don't bother showing up for work? In D.C., as in many other cities with "progressive" employee discipline procedures, school officials can suspend such teachers but can't terminate them.      The latest uproar began with the publication of a short "update" item in the Feb. 1 issue of Fast Company, in which Rhee seemed to say that the 266 teachers laid off last fall during the system's budget...
  • Class Origins Predict French Integration Success

    With financial hard times whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has bowed to the angry wind by launching a national debate on what it means to be French. The touchstone of this discussion remains the widespread rioting of 2005, which seemed to prove that France is a land of increasingly marginalized and restive migrants. Into the center of this fray comes a new book, which shows that integration à la française works better than most French imagine.In The Destiny of Immigrants' Children, authors Claudine Attias-Donfut and François-Charles Wolff offer a landmark survey of 6,000 migrants and 19,000 of their offspring. It is the first time that a study on immigration in France focuses on migrants from all continents. The authors' deliberate intent is to counter the common fiction of French political debates, which tend to define "les immigrés" as African and Arab newcomers, and to use immigration as a pretext to talk about ethnicity, an...
  • College Presidents’ Bow to Bad Publicity: Pay Hikes Slow as Tuitions Continue to Soar

    Public-university presidents have been getting a lot of bad press recently: endowments are dwindling, state support is shrinking and tuitions, which have been rising faster than inflation for years, are jumping even more to close the gap. College and university presidents, who enjoy generous six-figure salaries and ample expenses and benefits, are being targeted for abuse by student protesters as a result. ...
  • Meacham: Why Liberal Arts Matter

    At noon last Wednesday in Sewanee, Tenn., in a 19th-century Gothic hall dominated by a sandstone fireplace and decorated with portraits of somber bishops, the University of the South—my alma mater—elected a new leader, John M. McCardell Jr., the former president of Middlebury College. (We refer to our president as vice chancellor, in the English tradition. If the fates had ever brought Anthony Trollope and Tennessee Williams together to collaborate, Sewanee might have been the result.) Those of you who share an affinity for small institutions know the power of sentiment at such moments—how the old rooftops remind us of when we were young, and all of that. Arguing the interests of Dartmouth before the Supreme Court, Daniel Webster captured this feeling well: "It is, sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it."I love Sewanee, an Episcopal university tucked away on 13,000 rural acres of the Cumberland Plateau. It is a place where students and faculty wear...