Education

  • 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...

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