Opinion: America’s internet–now as good as Angola’s

A recent letter to the editor of the New York Times from Verizon Chairman Ivan Seidenberg had me scratching my head, says Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press and SavetheInternet.com. Seidenberg wrote to rebut a Times Op-Ed by former White House technology adviser Susan Crawford, in which she argues that the United States’ high-speed internet marketplace suffers from a lack of competition, a problem that drives broadband prices up and services down for American internet users.

“Over the last 10 years, we have deregulated high-speed internet access in the hope that competition among providers would protect consumers,” Crawford wrote. “The result? We now have neither a functioning competitive market for high-speed wired internet access nor government oversight.”

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States move away from exit exams, shift toward college-readiness

Fewer states are requiring students to pass high school exit exams to graduate, but more states are increasing standardized testing in college- and career-readiness assessment efforts, according to a report released Thursday, the Huffington Post reports. The report by the Center on Education Policy reveals that in the 2010-11 school year, 25 states have or plan to implement policies that require students to pass end-of-grade or end-of-course exams to earn a high school diploma–a figure down from 28 the year before. Six more have or plan to implement exit exams that do not mandate a minimum passing standard for graduation. The change comes as Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee changed their exit exam requirements that instead factor student scores from those tests into the student’s final grade in a course required for graduation…

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Students suspended for using ‘gun’ to rob peers of candy and chips

Police say two Detroit-area youngsters used a toy gun to rob five of their schoolmates of candy and chips, the Associated Press reports. The five victims were walking home earlier this week from Lincoln Elementary in Warren, north of Detroit, when one of the boys pulled the plastic gun on them, police said. The suspects, ages 10 and 8, have been identified and police said they were making arrangements to have them brought in to be questioned, according to The Detroit News.

“I can honestly say I cannot ever remember anything like this happening with such young suspects,” Warren Detective Lt. Dan Beck told The Macomb Daily in Mount Clemens reported. “At least one of the victims told our officers he believed the gun was real.”

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State lawmaker proposes axing gym class requirement

Florida lawmakers are considering a bill to eliminate a requirement that the state’s 6th through 8th graders must take one semester of physical education each year, the Huffington Post reports. The proposal aims to allow localities to decide whether gym classes should be offered in their middle schools, and doesn’t necessarily discourage physical education, Republican state Rep. Larry Metz — the bill’s sponsor, wrote in an email to ABC News.

“Simply because an idea may have merit for some does not mean that we should use the power of government to mandate it for all,” Metz wrote to ABC. “Some physically fit and active middle school students might rather use that time in their school day to take another elective.”

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How to start a successful virtual learning program

Buy-in is critical to a virtual learning program's success.

Virtual learning can help districts address many needs, such as filling a gap between courses a school offers and courses students might want to take but aren’t currently offered—and a new report offers insights on starting a virtual learning program from a number of seasoned experts.

Statistics indicate that more than 1.5 million students attended fully online or blended learning programs during the 2009-10 school year, and more school districts are turning to online instruction for its expanded curriculum offerings, flexibility, and cost-saving potential. Some experts predict that roughly half of high school courses will be offered online by 2019.

In “How to Launch District Virtual Learning,” a new report from the Blackboard Institute, 17 virtual learning experts agreed that getting buy-in from teachers, administrators, parents, and the community is absolutely essential to success.

The report’s authors interviewed a panel of 17 virtual learning experts, all of whom have led online instruction initiatives. Those experts agreed on seven important questions that schools and districts must answer before initiating or expanding a virtual learning program. The experts split into three categories, although most shared expertise beyond those categories: blended learning, course expansion, and professional development.

Those seven questions are:

  • What challenge are we trying to address?
  • Who are our champions?
  • What is our messaging?
  • How are we going to pay for it?
  • How do we get teachers on board?
  • How are we going to create and deliver the courses?
  • How will we measure success?

What challenge are we trying to address?

Virtual learning programs should fit precisely into a district’s overarching educational program and goals.

For instance, online instruction might be the right option for a district trying to provide professional development opportunities that best meet teachers’ needs.

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Parents hold teachers hostage, demand firing of ‘tyrant’ educator

While people all over the world are “occupying” their local governments, police have refused to intervene after a group of parents have occupied the Notre-Dame de Caderot school in the south of France, taking several teachers and the school headmistress hostage, Le Figaro reports. The parents are angry about the quality of education their children are receiving and aim to get one teacher fired, the paper reports. Notre-Dame de Caderot is located in Berre l’Etang in southern France.

“We are very worried that the pupils are falling behind in school. We think our children are in danger,” Christophe Planes, one of the parents, told Le Figaro. “That’s why we have decided to hold the headmistress and a couple of teachers hostage. We want things to change.”

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Ex-school chief defends unemployment application

The ousted former head of Philadelphia’s public schools says she’s only taking what’s rightfully hers by applying for unemployment benefits after receiving a $900,000 contract buyout, the Associated Press reports. Arlene Ackerman tells WCAU-TV she received about $400,000 after taxes and lawyer fees as part of the severance package settled on in August. The former superintendent is eligible for the state maximum of $573 a week, based on her former salary of about $350,000. Ackerman told WCAU (http://bit.ly/uuvkFm ) she “didn’t win the jackpot” by collecting the severance package…

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District faces civil rights claims after allegedly ‘outing’ lesbian student

After facing lawsuits from Barbara Wyatt, who claimed the Kilgore Independent School District in Tyler, Texas “aggressively confronted” her 16-year-old daughter about her sexual orientation after hearing a rumor, the district still faces civil rights claims, the Courthouse News Service reports. The previous lawsuits were against softball coaches Rhonda Fletcher and Cassandra Newell, who allegedly interrogated the teenager in a locker room on March 2, 2009. Athletic Director Douglas Duke was also sued for not properly training the coaches, and the district for maintaining that they are legally obligated to “disclose the sexual orientation of their students to parents, without consent,” the court documents said according to the News Journal...

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Illinois study cites cost of high school dropouts

High school dropouts on average receive $1,500 a year more from government than they pay in taxes because they are more likely to get benefits or to be in prison, according to a U.S. study released on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

“Dropping out of high school before receiving a high school diploma places a substantial fiscal burden on the rest of society,” wrote Andrew Sum of Northeastern University, an author of a study of Illinois and Chicago residents done on behalf of the Chicago Urban League and some education groups.

The findings, based on U.S. Census Bureau data from 2009-2010, illustrate the cost advantage of programs that persuade dropouts to re-enroll in school instead of becoming a financial drain on society, the study’s sponsors said…

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Twitter simplifies in bid to engage more users

Twitter is changing to address a paradox about a service that revolves around messages limited to just 140 characters. As simple as it sounds, the concept remains too confusing and frustrating for a lot of people, the Associated Press reports. A redesign is supposed to make Twitter easier to navigate. It offers more accessible features that customize the experience for each user. The service is also expanding users’ profile pages to accommodate more detailed information about brands in text, photos and video as Twitter tries to convert more companies into advertisers. Twitter’s tweaks debuted in a Thursday update to its software for smartphones and tablet computers. The new look will be gradually rolled out on its website during the next few weeks…

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