Opinion: Are students hurt by low-paid teachers?

Teacher salaries have recently been a major source of contention for both public employees and the public at large. Though not a groundbreaking revelation, the New York Times explains this week how a recent U.S. Department of Education study revealed teachers in poorer schools are paid lower salaries, says Becca Swanson for Yahoo! News. Education Nation explains the department’s findings that many school systems unfairly distribute money within their districts, favoring higher-income schools and providing less money for teacher salaries in low-income schools. These poorer students are then subjected to underpaid, novice teachers who move onto higher-paying positions once they gain experience. This leaves low-income schools with perpetually “new,” or, as they would have us believe, “bad” teachers…

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NYC ban on after-school worship services stands

The Supreme Court rejected on Monday a plea from a tiny evangelical church in the Bronx to overturn New York City’s ban on religious worship services at public schools, the Associated Press reports. The justices left in place a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the city’s policy, which allows prayer and religious instruction but draws a line at worship.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Pastor Robert Hall of the 48-member Bronx Household of Faith, which has been pressing its case for 17 years. “We think this is a dangerous precedent that allows the state to make a distinction between various types of religious activity.”

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How the food industry controls student meals

An increasingly cozy alliance between companies that manufacture processed foods and companies that serve the meals is making students—a captive market—fat and sick while pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, the New York Times reports. At a time of fiscal austerity, these companies are seducing school administrators with promises to cut costs through privatization. Parents who want healthier meals, meanwhile, are outgunned. Each day, 32 million children in the United States get lunch at schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program, which uses agricultural surplus to feed children. About 21 million of these students eat free or reduced-price meals, a number that has surged since the recession. The program, which also provides breakfast, costs $13.3 billion a year. Sadly, it is being mismanaged and exploited…

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Mom says her film is sparking education reform nationwide

With her groundbreaking documentary “Race to Nowhere,” Vicki Abeles has become the catalyst for a reform movement focused on reducing stress in students’ lives and making education meaningful, the Contra Costa Times reports.

“I’m encouraged that the film has struck a nerve and that, importantly, conversations around the country are changing and evolving,” said Abeles, 50, who lives in Lafayette with her husband and three children.

Abeles said she began work on the documentary a few years ago, after having an “Aha”-“Inconvenient Truth”-type of moment, when she realized that a film about the kinds of discussions she was having with her own children and friends in the Bay Area could trigger a nationwide call to action. Since 2009, more than 1 million people have seen the film–often in venues where parents and educators could discuss it afterward.

“People usually spend a lot of time reacting at an emotional level because it kind of hits everybody where they live,” Abeles said. “People want to understand what schools can do to influence change and how to make changes at college admissions offices.”

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Opinion: AP classes: Absolutely preposterous weapons of mass instruction

Weapons of Mass Instruction have been discovered in schools nationwide. Standardization of education is a plague that comes in many forms but none as detrimental as the AP class, TeenInk reports. AP, or Advanced Placement, enrollment supposedly signifies that a ­student is intelligent enough to take college-level courses in high school. In reality, it’s just Academic Pollution. You do not learn the material to become enlightened. You learn to pass a test. You learn so that you can impress ­admissions officers with your weighted GPA. You learn so that when you enter college as a sophomore, you can fast-track your way to a high-paying job and the “real world.” But signing away your childhood to the College Board is Absolutely Preposterous. Dealing with those gifted children who actually want to be educated often presents a challenge to administrators. Easily bored in classes that don’t stimulate them, these students release their pent-up frustration at their intellectual stagnation in the form of classroom disruptions. The solution? Lump all the Annoying Prodigies into one class and teach them the higher-level material they crave…

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Students win $100,000 scholarships by tossing footballs

There are a lot of college scholarships available that can be classified as unusual, even eccentric, says Valerie Strauss, columnist for the Washington Post. As my colleague Daniel de Vise reported in this story, there’s one at Johns Hopkins University for a student who loves reinforced concrete, and the University of Mary Washington offers scholarships to two students who play bagpipes in a school band. There are scholarships that go to students with specific names, or who are left-handed. And who can’t love the Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Challenge, which awards money to students who go their high school prom in an outfit made out of duck tape. Really. The 2011 winners won $5,000 each and the same amount for their schools. But here’s one that may take the unconventional cake because of how much money is involved and the way the winners are chosen…

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College admissions strategy for some seniors: Don’t identify as Asian

Lanya Olmstead was born in Florida to a mother who immigrated from Taiwan and an American father of Norwegian ancestry. Ethnically, she considers herself half Taiwanese and half Norwegian. But when applying to Harvard, Olmstead checked only one box for her race: white.

“I didn’t want to put `Asian’ down,” Olmstead says, “because my mom told me there’s discrimination against Asians in the application process,” the Associated Press reports.

For years, many Asian-Americans have been convinced that it’s harder for them to gain admission to the nation’s top colleges. Studies show that Asian-Americans meet these colleges’ admissions standards far out of proportion to their 6 percent representation in the U.S. population, and that they often need test scores hundreds of points higher than applicants from other ethnic groups to have an equal chance of admission. Critics say these numbers, along with the fact that some top colleges with race-blind admissions have double the Asian percentage of Ivy League schools, prove the existence of discrimination…

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Student graduation threatened in school course credit scandal

A Bronx school in New York is under investigation for allegations of credit irregularities that could threaten some students’ abilities to graduate this year, the Huffington Post reports. The New York Department of Education is examining Jane Addams High School for Academic Careers and its principal, Sharron Smalls for alleged credit padding–by giving students credits for classes they didn’t take–by “double dipping” and crediting students for two courses when they only took one.

“Clearly, there’s an agenda of credit accumulation, and it certainly plays into this,” Jane Addams math teacher told the New York Times. “There’s tremendous pressure to get students to graduate, but what has to be understood is that they’ve got to graduate the right way, according to the standards of New York State. And the principal made it a point to break the rules.”

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Initiative aims for 100,000 new STEM teachers

The 100Kin10 movement aims for 100,000 new STEM teachers in 10 years.

A new national movement aims to increase the supply of math and science teachers and retain excellent teachers currently in U.S. classrooms by preparing 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next 10 years.

Led by Carnegie Corporation of New York, Opportunity Equation, the NewSchools Venture Fund, and the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the 100Kin10 initiative was sparked by President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union speech, in which he called for an increase in the number and quality of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers, and by the impending retirement of thousands of STEM teachers over the next few years.

100Kin10 is a growing partnership unified by the goal of preparing all students with the high-quality STEM knowledge and skills needed to address national and global challenges. Partners are invited to apply their particular assets to address the challenge of recruiting and retaining excellent STEM educators strategically and creatively.

“The partners are tackling the president’s challenge from three directions: by increasing the supply of excellent STEM teachers; by developing and supporting STEM teachers so that our schools retain excellent talent, thereby reducing the need for new teachers; and by building the movement so that the quest for 100,000 excellent STEM teachers can succeed,” said Michele Cahill, co-chair of the Opportunity Equation and vice president for national programs at the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which is coordinating the funders’ collaborative.

“But these efforts alone, though significant, are not equal to the challenge. We need others with the demonstrated ability to develop outstanding teachers and to build this movement to join us.”

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