South Korea outpaces the U.S. in engineering degrees

Any eighth grader who wonders if anyone actually uses algebra should ask Hyungtae Lee, an electrical engineer who writes algorithms to build computers with the power of human sight. It’s a skill he learned first here in South Korea, where undergraduate students are five times more likely to major in engineering than their counterparts in the United States, the Washington Post reports. U.S. universities and companies often look abroad for students and workers to fill positions because not enough Americans have the necessary skills or training. To help meet the demand, President Obama has announced a goalto train 1 million more graduates over the next decade in engineering and related fields. At a White House science fair in February, he told the young contestants, “You’re not just trying to win a prize today, you are getting America in shape to win the future. You are making sure we have the best, smartest, most skilled workers in the world, so that the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root right here.”

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Obama proposes $1B for science, math teachers

Teachers selected for the Master Teacher Corps will be paid an additional $20,000 a year.

The Obama administration unveiled plans Wednesday to create an elite corps of master teachers, a $1 billion effort to boost U.S. students’ achievement in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The program to reward high-performing teachers with salary stipends is part of a long-term effort by President Barack Obama to encourage education in high-demand areas that hold the key to future economic growth—and to close the achievement gap between American students and their international peers.

Teachers selected for the Master Teacher Corps will be paid an additional $20,000 a year and must commit to participate multiple years. The goal is to create a multiplier effect in which expert educators share their knowledge and skills with other teachers, improving the quality of education for all students.

Speaking at a rally for his re-election campaign in San Antonio on Tuesday, Obama framed his emphasis on expanded education funding as a point of contrast with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, whom he accused of prioritizing tax cuts for the wealthy over reinvestment in the nation.

“I’m running to make sure that America has the best education system on earth, from pre-K all the way to post-graduate,” Obama said. “And that means hiring new teachers, especially in math and science.”

The administration will make $100 million available immediately out of an existing fund to incentivize top-performing teachers. Over the longer term, the White House said it plans to launch the program with $1 billion included in Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2013.

But the House and Senate both voted down Obama’s budget earlier in the year, making it far from certain that Obama will be able to get congressional approval to spend $1 billion on master teachers.

An aide to Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, noted that the federal government already has more than 80 teacher quality programs and said it would be foolish to pump money into programs that may be duplicative or unproductive.


Feds launch new online tool to help students manage loan debt

The U.S. Department of Education has released a new interactive loan counseling tool to provide students with financial management basics, like information about their current loan debt and estimates for student loan debt levels after graduation. Students can access the new resource, known as the Financial Awareness Counseling Tool, on

“Managing student loan debt can be a difficult and confusing process for many borrowers. That’s why the Obama administration has been working to unravel the mystery of college financing and arm students and parents with the information they need to make smart educational choices,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “Students need to know up front how much college will actually cost them, instead of waiting to find out when the first student loan bill arrives. This new tool will help bring new transparency to the process of debt management on the front end and empower students to keep their school loan payments on track and on time after graduation.”

The Financial Awareness Counseling Tool provides students with five interactive tutorials covering topics ranging from managing a budget to avoiding default. Students can access their individual loan history and receive personalized feedback that can help them better understand their financial obligations. In addition, college financial aid professionals can monitor a student’s progress in using the tool and provide assistance if necessary.

The announcement is part of an ongoing effort by the Obama administration to make college costs more transparent for education consumers. Recently, the Education Department published its annual college cost lists, which detail schools with the highest and lowest published sticker price, schools with the highest net price once grants and scholarships are factored in, and those schools where prices are rising the fastest.

And in the coming weeks, the administration is set to release its model financial aid shopping sheet. The shopping sheet, which the administration will encourage all colleges and universities to adopt voluntarily, will tell prospective students how much aid they will receive in grants and scholarships; how much they’ll need to borrow in student loans; the difference between private loans and federal student loans; and the average student loan payment after graduation.


To support ed tech, schools need to rethink budgets, infrastructure

Faculty and IT staff ranked limited budget as the top barrier to more tech-based learning.

As schools seek to provide more interactive, engaging, and personalized learning, newly released survey results reveal they need to radically rethink their budgets and infrastructure to support this new learning model.

Two-thirds of students want to use technology more often in their classrooms, and 76 percent of IT staff said faculty members show increasing interest in implementing educational technology.

But 87 percent of IT professionals said they would need to upgrade their infrastructure before they can incorporate much more technology in their classrooms, and almost nine in 10 faculty members anticipate problems moving away from the traditional lecture model.

In May and June of 2012, technology provider CDW-G administered a survey to 1,015 high school and college students, faculty members, and IT professionals about the trend towards new learning models that emphasize educational technology, problem-solving, and individualized instruction. CDW-G presented the survey results June 26 as a report entitled “Learn Now, Lecture Later.”

The company previously released research reports on the “21st Century Classroom” in 2010 and 2011, but it observed “an explosion of different devices to engage both students and teachers” in the last year, said Joe Simone, director of K-12 sales for CDW-G.

Simone attributed the sudden “spike” in ed-tech adoption to the ubiquity of touch-based devices such as tablets and smart phones.

“The way people interact with technology in and out of school is very different than just two to three years ago,” he said, noting that consumers now “expect physical touch.”

Schools are trying to “make more of a constant” between the technology that students use outside of school and the equipment available to them in school, Simone said.

Under the traditional learning model, the technology available at home to middle class and wealthier students often “outpace[s]” what schools are able to provide, agreed Mark Washington, director of technology for Port Huron Area School District in Michigan.

Surveyed high school students and faculty ranked laptops and tablets—two devices often available at home—as the technologies they would most like to see used more in classrooms.

“Schools need to have resources equal or better than what [students] have at home,” Washington said.


School employees accused of lying for free, reduced lunches

A dozen Chicago Public Schools principals and assistant principals have been removed from their posts following allegations that they lied on forms to get their children free or reduced lunches, the Chicago Tribune reports. They are among 26 current or former CPS employees accused of lying on federal school lunch forms that allowed their combined 45 children to receive free or reduced-price lunches at 40 schools across the district, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The school officials, whose names have not been released since they have yet to participate in due process hearings on the allegations, would face disciplinary action, including termination…

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Larger class sizes, education cuts harm children’s chance to learn

When Shania started third grade at P.S. 148 last fall, she was thrilled to be back at the Queens public school. An outgoing eight-year-old, she said she was happy to be among her friends again, and she had loved her class the previous year. Her second-grade teacher would take the time to explain tricky topics like addition and subtraction one-on-one. She had even been named “student of the month,” the Huffington Post reports. But since 2007, as the economy has tanked and expenses for public schools have risen, New York City has made principals cut budgets by 13.7 percent. When budgets are cut, teachers are fired and others aren’t replaced — including at P.S. 148, which has lost at least $600,000 and eight teachers since 2010. When teachers are lost, class sizes balloon. Shania had 31 classmates this past school year, compared to 20 the year before.

“Mommy, I want to change,” Shania said a week into the school year, according to her mother, Laynory Loaiza. “There are too many kids in my class, and when I try to talk to the teacher, she doesn’t pay attention to me.”

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Go mobile or go home

Last week, I spent a day at the Blackboard World Developers’ Conference (BBWorld DevCon). There was plenty of attention paid to Blackboard’s purchase of Moodlerooms and Netspot and the possible implications for developers, says Christopher Dawson for ZDNet Education. There was lots of talk about LTI (more on that later). But more than anything, developers were talking mobile. This isn’t unique to BBWorld, either – like consumer and enterprise customers, educators and students are going mobile in big ways, and companies need to keep up. Blackboard has their Mobile Learn product which, beginning this fall, will allow students to purchase the app on iOS or Android, even if their institution chooses not to support Blackboard’s full-blown Mobile Central platform. Developers were particularly giving kudos at DevCon for Blackboard’s augmented reality component in Mobile Central, which allows schools to create interactive, 3D overlays for school campuses that students and visitors can access via their iPhones (the app works on iPads and the company is looking at Android support, but Blackboard focused on the iPhone for a standardized device to explore this very new technology)…

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