Teen’s social media use inspires others

Lake Zurich students use a Formspring page to share positive comments about their classmates.

Too often, we hear stories about students using online anonymity to bully their peers. But one Illinois high school student is using social media to improve campus morale.

A rising sophomore at Lake Zurich High School created a Formspring page where middle and high school students can leave anonymous compliments for each other. The site’s creator has chosen to remain anonymous herself, releasing only her grade and gender. She approves all comments before they are posted, often adding an emoticon or positive comment of her own.

Formed this past spring, “LZ Compliments” has received 3,164 postings as of press time. Students use the site to boost their classmates anonymously, posting such comments as “[student] is a babe and is cute with her braces,” or “[student] is so sincere and an awesome person.”

The creator of LZ Compliments says she made the site in response to the ugly negativity she usually saw on the internet.

“I didn’t know what the reaction was going to be,” she told Lake Zurich Patch. “I didn’t know how popular it would be.”

While initially the site received negative comments predicting its failure, the student moderator refused to post anything negative. Soon, positive sentiments came rolling in. She says she most likes posts that are well thought out and include more than just compliments on physical appearances.

The creation of LZ Compliments comes at a time when cyber bullying has led to a recent spate of highly publicized teen suicides, or “bullycides,” across the nation. Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook’s marketing director and sister of site co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, recently argued that putting an end to anonymity online could help curb bullying and harassment on the web.

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Bill Gates: Poverty not excuse for no education

Gates said shifting the emphasis to education helps in the battle against poverty

Microsoft founder Bill Gates told the National Urban League on July 28 that a child’s success should not depend on the race or income of parents and that poverty cannot be an excuse for a poor education.

Gates said shifting the emphasis to education helps in the battle against poverty.

“Let me acknowledge that I don’t understand in a personal way the challenges that poverty creates for families, and schools and teachers,” the billionaire said at the civil rights group’s annual convention. “I don’t ever want to minimize it. Poverty is a terrible obstacle. But we can’t let it be an excuse.”

Gates, who now runs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, cited his foundation’s work with charter schools as an example.

“We know you can have a good school in a poor neighborhood,” said Gates. “So let’s end the myth that we have to solve poverty before we improve education. I say it’s more the other way around: Improving education is the best way to solve poverty.”

After speaking, Gates joined Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, who Bill Gates playfully called his “cousin,” for a conversation on education. “He’s the Harvard professor,” said Bill Gates. “I’m the Harvard drop out.”

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Texas approves all-digital science program for statewide use

The Texas State Board of Education has voted to make McGraw-Hill Education’s CINCH Science program available statewide for use in grades 5-12, reports the Bradenton Herald. The decision comes as the state works to find affordable digital solutions that meet its newest educational standards and prepare students for new state assessments. While CINCH Science will be used in a supplemental role in Texas alongside the traditional print textbooks already in classrooms, the program and its companion, CINCH Math, are comprehensive, all-digital curricula. The programs launched at last month’s International Society for Technology in Education conference and will be available for use in Texas schools beginning next month. A cloud-based curriculum, CINCH Science is compatible with most tablets, computers, or mobile devices, allowing students to extend the learning experience by accessing content inside or outside the classroom. With educational games and social networking elements—such as the ability to highlight content and spark a discussion that appears like a Facebook comment thread—CINCH Science offers teachers a number of ways to engage students that go beyond what’s offered by a traditional textbook…

Read the full story here.

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Twitter to add parental controls to tweet links

Twitter has added a way to flag links within tweets as “possibly sensitive,” Mashable reports. The company announced July 28 that there is a new field in the Twitter streaming API that will show up whenever a tweet contains a link, giving Twitter users the option to be warned before they click links that might be too sensitive for the workplace, or for younger students. The new feature is not functional yet, but Twitter was informing developers that it was just added and is now in the testing phase. According to Twitter representative Taylor Singletary, “In the future, we’ll have a family of additional API methods & fields for handling end-user ‘media settings’ and possibly sensitive content…”

Read the full story here.

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Fees for students redefine ‘free’ public school

As cash-strapped public schools attempt to squeeze every possible dollar out of their budgets, an unpleasant reality awaits parents: They will most likely have to pay for programs and services that schools once provided for free, reports the Texas Tribune. Consider Keller Independent School District just north of Fort Worth, where students who ride the bus will now pay $185 each per semester. Rather than scrap busing altogether after voters rejected a property tax hike in June to make up for lost state revenue, the district opted to institute fares. The $4 billion cut in education financing at the state level for 2012-13 means these extra charges will become increasingly common. “We’re going to see districts charging fees for things that they have always been able to but just haven’t chosen to in the past,” said David Thompson, a former general counsel for the Texas Education Agency who now represents school districts. Across the country, such fees also threaten to draw lawsuits about what it means to provide a “free” public education under state constitutions…

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Five things students say they want from education

“Most often heard from students: ‘Why do I need to know this?’” says an eSN reader.

With so many education stakeholders debating the needs of today’s schools, student voices aren’t always heard when it comes to what they want from their education.

And while it’s important to note what businesses would like to see in their future employees, at the end of the day it really comes down to the students themselves.

We recently asked eSchool News readers: “What’s the one thing you hear most often from students about what they want in school?”

Though the responses were numerous, readers repeated these five things students want the most (responses edited for brevity). What do you think of this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

5. Interactive technology

“My fourth grade students want more interactive technology. I have four computers in my classroom, one provided by the school and three provided by me. My students use them for math, writing, researching, and interactive math and word games. They also want more time to reflect on what they learn. They especially want more hands-on science where they can experiment, discuss, and reflect on what they observed, and then redo the activity. Too often, because we have so much to cover in the curriculum, deeper understanding is lost in the milieu.” —Mike Larzelere

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Principal: Why I’m marching to ‘save our schools’

We are awash in market-based school reform, says Carol Corbett Burris, principal of South Side High School, NY, and the School Administrators Association of New York State’s 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator, for the Washington Post. From virtual schools and profit-generating charters to sort and select evaluation policies for teachers, so-called reformers gleefully push business solutions down onto our schools. The cheerleaders of market-based change believe that only the fierce competition of capitalism can create great teachers and smart kids. Test scores are the bottom line profits. Don’t fix a school; shut it down instead…

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This is your brain on summer

The American ideal of lazy summers filled with fun has an unintended consequence: If students are not engaged in learning over the summer, they lose skills in math and reading, says Jeff Smink, vice president for policy for the National Summer Learning Association, for the New York Times. Summers off are one of the most important, yet least acknowledged, causes of underachievement in our schools.  Decades of research confirm that summer learning loss is real. According to a report released last month by the RAND Corporation, the average summer learning loss in math and reading for American students amounts to one month per year…

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High school students get learning experience on college campus

There’s a new experiment to get Prince George’s County high school students ready for higher education: sending them straight to college, the Washington Post reports. This fall, 100 ninth-graders will attend classes on the campus of Prince George’s Community College in Largo through a public school initiative called the Academy of Health Sciences. They’ll start with typical classes from high school teachers in such subjects as English, biology, math and Chinese…

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