Obama: Ryan’s economic plan costly to education

The Ryan budget, which failed to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, would cut annual nondefense spending by 5 percent in 2013. The next year, it would be a 19-percent cut. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

President Barack Obama is highlighting various sections of Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s sweeping budget proposals as he tries to paint the GOP ticket as too extreme for the nation. Next up in his analysis: education.

On Aug. 21, Obama plans to tell voters in sharply contested Ohio that Ryan’s budget proposal would cut $115 billion from the federal Education Department, remove 2 million children from Head Start programs, and cost 1 million college students their Pell Grants over the next decade. The line of criticism will be coupled with television ads.

Obama’s latest line of criticism was described by Democratic officials involved in the plan. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the strategy before the president began executing it, which he planned to do at Capital University in Columbus and continue later in the day during a stop at a community college in Reno, Nev.

For his part, Ryan was set to make two stops in Pennsylvania: a morning rally at a steel company in Carnegie and an afternoon visit to the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center in West Chester. He then was set to fly to Virginia, a state Obama won in 2008 but which is looking more difficult this time around.

The campaign said Ryan would focus on the Republican ticket’s plans for boosting small businesses. He also plans to address looming defense cuts, which are part of a deal brokered by Obama and congressional leaders of both parties. It was designed to force a deficit agreement, but Congress was unable to come up with a compromise.

See also:

Obama renews call for aid to halt teacher layoffs

Some educators worried by would-be VP Ryan’s budget proposal

Mitt Romney’s plan to federalize education reform

Romney shifting focus from economy to education

Fact check: Romney off on Obama’s love for unions

Ryan will tell voters that the Republican ticket plans to reverse the defense cuts and replace them with “common sense reforms,” though the campaign provided no details on what those would entail.

Obama said Aug. 20 he doesn’t believe Congress can reach a deal before the November elections that avoids the cuts in military spending, but is he is optimistic that the reductions won’t occur.

Romney, meanwhile, was set to raise campaign cash ahead of next week’s GOP convention, which will officially nominate him for the presidency.

Since Romney tapped Ryan as his running mate, Democrats have aggressively highlighted what Ryan’s budget would mean to Medicare. Ryan’s plan would allow those 55 and older to stay in the health care program for seniors as it is currently set up, but it also would offer private alternatives for younger workers. That has left some voters skittish.

Students and their parents are the next group Obama hopes to put on notice. The president started radio ads in New Hampshire that claim 21,000 college students in that state would have their Pell Grants cut by $800 each. Another ad tells Ohio voters that 356,000 students would have their Pell Grants cut.

Those estimates assume the cuts in Ryan’s budget are applied evenly across all programs starting in 2014—something Ryan aides say would not happen. His budget does not directly address Pell Grant funding, and his aides say the cuts would not take a one-size-fits-all approach.


Samsung tablet takes aim at iPad—with a pen

The stylus could be useful for those who need to draw or sketch on a tablet.

The tablet-computer market is like guerrilla warfare. One huge army—Apple—dominates the land, while a ragtag group of insurgents keeps raiding and probing, hoping to find some opening it can exploit.

With Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 10.1, the rebels have scored a small victory. It’s a tablet that does something that the iPad doesn’t do, and it does it well. This victory won’t win the war, though.

Available now in the U.S., the $499 tablet comes with a pen, or more precisely, a stylus. It doesn’t leave marks on paper, but the tablet’s screen responds to it. I found it a pleasure to use: It’s precise and responsive, and it glides easily across the screen.

There are styluses available for the iPad, but they’re not very good. The iPad’s screen can’t sense sharp objects, so any stylus has to be fairly blunt. Many of them have rubber tips, which resist being dragged across the screen.

The Galaxy Note has an additional layer in its screen, tuned to sense special, sharp-pointed pens through magnetism.

See also:

Seven iPad alternatives for schools

News Corp. to launch tablet-based education pilot

Microsoft’s ‘Surface’ tablet aims for productivity

The Note is not the first iPad competitor to work with a stylus.

The HTC Flyer came out last year with the same ability, but several missteps limited its appeal. First, it was half the size of the iPad yet cost just as much, and that was without the pen. Second, there was no slot for the pen in the body of the tablet, making it easy to lose. The pen also was expensive, costing $80 to replace.

Samsung then built pen-sensitivity into the first Galaxy Note, a smart phone launched early this year. Though well-received, the tablet had an odd size, with a 5-inch screen. That makes it very big for a smart phone but small for a tablet. With the Galaxy Note 10.1, Samsung is taking the pen squarely into iPad territory.

So, what can you do with the pen? Well, this is where the Samsung offensive starts faltering. There just isn’t that much the pen is useful for yet, because stylus-equipped tablets are so new.

You can jot down notes, or edit photos in an included version of Photoshop. You can scrawl personal notes to people and eMail them. Instead of using the on-screen keyboard, you can use handwriting and let the tablet interpret it. You can even enter web addresses this way. Handwriting can be slower than typing, though, and the tablet’s interpretation introduces errors, so it’s not clear why you’d use it much.

The stylus senses how hard you press into the screen. Samsung’s S Note app responds by making the line you make thinner or thicker, an essential feature for anyone who wants to use a tablet for serious drawing. The pen also comes with a side button that works much like the left mouse button, giving access to extra features with little effort.


Online ‘burn books’ sparking controversy

Online burn books are Twitter accounts where an anonymous person posts multiple insulting Tweets.

You have a big nose. Your butt is huge. You’re ugly. You smell.

These insults—and much worse—are popping up on the internet in “burn book” accounts that are specific to area schools and to particular students there. The burn books are creating a stir in local communities across the country.

Inspired by the 2004 Lindsay Lohan movie “Mean Girls,” burn books are Twitter accounts where an anonymous person posts multiple Tweets that insult, taunt, and call out classmates by name on the social media messaging network.

Manheim Township, Warwick, Manheim Central, Donegal, Garden Spot, Hempfield, and Ephrata are among the Pennsylvania school districts that have been targeted by burn book accounts.

Concerned parents and students have alerted local police departments about the burn books, which also make graphic accusations about students’, or even teachers’, sexual habits, drinking, or drug use, in addition to the put-downs.

The accounts specialize in casual cruelty, with Manheim Central’s signing off recently with this flippant tweet: “I’m done for tonight, don’t cry yourself to sleep people.”

Some local police say the accounts are more than just insulting. They are taking steps to obtain account holders’ names and will consider prosecution on charges such as harassment or harassment by communication.

“This absolutely is cyber bullying, this is what it’s about,” said Lititz police Detective John Schofield, who said his department fielded five phone calls on Aug. 15 alerting police to the Warwick burn book. “It could rise to a criminal charge.”


Obama renews call for aid to halt teacher layoffs

In his address, Obama said a House Republican budget would make conditions worse because it would cut education spending to help pay for new tax cuts for the wealthy.

Tight school budgets have meant fewer teachers, larger classes, and shorter school years, according to a White House report that President Barack Obama says shows the need for Congress to pass his proposals to help states reduce teacher layoffs.

The study concluded that 300,000 education jobs have been lost since the official end of the recession in 2009 and that student-to-teacher ratios have increased by 4.6 percent from 2008 to 2010 and are on track to grow more.

“If we want America to lead in the 21st century, nothing is more important than giving everyone the best education possible—from the day they start preschool to the day they start their career,” Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address Aug. 18.

For Obama, the report offered a fresh chance to push a nearly year-old jobs plan he proposed that provided money for states to keep teachers, police officers, and firefighters on the job. The proposal included payroll tax cuts and jobless insurance provisions that Congress has passed. But other proposals in the plan have run aground amid mostly Republican opposition.

While the private sector has continued to create jobs, though at a sluggish pace, the public sector has been posting monthly job losses, contributing to an 8.3-percent unemployment rate.

Obama’s plan includes $25 billion in aid to prevent layoffs of teachers and pay for other education jobs. That is part of a broader effort to retain state and local government jobs.

The White House report was not a product of the Education Department. It was prepared by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, his Domestic Policy Council, and his National Economic Council.

According to the report, average student-to-teacher ratios reached a low of 15.3 in 2008 but climbed to 16 students per teacher in 2010, equal to levels in 2000. The report acknowledges that typical class sizes are actually larger than those ratios, because the measures include teachers for students with disabilities and other special teachers who are excluded from class-size counts. It said that in many districts, class size is much higher because of steeper cuts in education budgets.

The report says that since the fall of 2010, local governments have cut about 150,000 more education jobs.


Ten things teachers, students should expect this year

What do most public teachers and students across the nation have to look forward to as they head back for the 2012-13 school year? Asks Boston educator Larry Myatt, a convener with The Forum for Education and Democracy, the co-founder of the Education Resources Consortium and a former National Faculty Member of The Coalition of Essential Schools.

* Yet another “common core”. (What’s wrong with the dozens, if not hundreds, that states, curriculum and cultural organizations have already
constructed over the past decades? Is it the lists or what we do/don’t do with them that make us need a “latest version”?)

* Lots more testing, costing us hundreds of millions of dollars to implement even in times of budget scarcity. (Have you been in or around a school when testing is taking place? Stress. Anxiety. A brink’s truck worth of secrecy and security passing as education. By the way, our new generation of school leaders and teachers has grown up on standardized testing.)

* The administration of President Obama saying that those tests don’t give a full picture of the quality of learning.

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Special needs kids staying in traditional schools

The high cost of educating students with special needs is disproportionately falling on traditional public schools as other students increasingly opt for alternatives that aren’t always readily open to those requiring special education, the Associated Press reports. The issue is particularly acute in districts where enrollment has declined due to demographic changes such as low birth rates and population shifts combined with an influx of charter schools and voucher programs that have siphoned off students. School district officials say all schools that receive public funds should share the cost of special education.

“It raises an ethical responsibility question,” said Eric Gordon, chief executive officer of Cleveland Metropolitan School District. “We welcome our students with special needs, but the most expensive programming is on public districts.”

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Broadband: Huge potential, but access barriers remain

Broadband access boosts online learning’s potential, educators say.

Broadband internet access is crucial for student learning as online and blended learning expand throughout the country, but obstacles such as digital access and policy roadblocks must be addressed, said panelists during an Internet Innovation webinar on broadband’s potential in education.

A broadband backbone is invaluable for expanding learning quality and opportunities for students and teachers when it comes to differentiated instruction, content, communication, and administrative needs, said David Teeter, director of policy for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).

Broadband supports online and blended learning, enables and enhances personalized learning and differentiated instruction, and supports decision-making.

Teeter offered a quick glance at online and blended learning across the country:

  •  30 states have state virtual schools or initiatives.
  • 10 states have online learning initiatives.
  •  50 states have significant state policies.
  • 30 states and Washington, D.C. allow more than 200 full-time virtual charter schools, with more than 250,000 students.
  • 30 percent all employers use eLearning for training, and in five years that figure will jump to 50 percent.
  • More than 70 percent of school districts in the U.S. offer online courses to students.

“Reliable and robust broadband is really critical,” Teeter said.

District online and blended learning programs are growing dramatically with broadband support. Broadband also offers expanded opportunities when it comes to instructional materials and open access, and under the Common Core State Standards, districts and states are working to develop materials for professional development, content, and learning.

Broadband access in education can:

  • Enable data systems and platforms to support teaching and learning.
  • Help schools and districts as textbooks are replaced by digital content in coming years.
  • Increase data availability and the ability to provide consistent electronic education records, which are able to be exchanged across schools and across the states.

“[These are] really exciting opportunities, but it’s really important that schools, districts, and states make sure the broadband capacity is in place to enable this,” Teeter said.

Insufficient connectivity creates gaps in districts and states that are able to take full advantage of broadband for education. Limited data access and lack of transparency present additional hurdles, because legislative and regulatory barriers inhibit online learning—for instance, teachers often cannot teach across state lines, and course accreditation is often based on seat time and not on outcomes or results.


Raising the Ritalin generation

I remember the moment my son’s teacher told us, “Just a little medication could really turn things around for Will.” We stared at her as if she were speaking Greek, says Bronwen Hruska for the New York Times. Will was in third grade, and his school wanted him to settle down in order to focus on math worksheets and geography lessons and social studies. The children were expected to line up quietly and “transition” between classes without goofing around. This posed a challenge — hence the medication.

“We’ve seen it work wonders,” his teacher said. “Will’s teachers are reprimanding him. If his behavior improves, his teachers will start to praise him. He’ll feel better about himself and about school as a whole.”

Will did not bounce off walls. He wasn’t particularly antsy. He didn’t exhibit any behaviors I’d associated with attention deficit or hyperactivity. He was an 8-year-old boy with normal 8-year-old boy energy — at least that’s what I’d deduced from scrutinizing his friends…

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Media companies, seeing profit slip, push into education

As another academic year starts, about 500,000 children across the country will find themselves learning subjects like middle school history or high school biology from a new line of digital textbooks, the New York Times reports. These manuals, branded Techbooks, come with all the Internet frills: video, virtual labs, downloadable content. But the Techbook may be most notable for what it does not have — backing from a traditional educational publisher. Instead it has the support of Discovery, the cable TV company. Discovery, which also sells an educational video service to school districts, is entering the digital textbook market largely because it sees a growth opportunity too good to pass up. Conventional textbooks for kindergarten through 12th grade are a $3 billion business in the United States, according to the Association of American Publishers, with an additional $4 billion spent on teacher guides, testing resources and reference materials…

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Op-Ed: For homeless kids, caring teachers offer hope

The truth was revealed when Donald’s teacher, Samuel Klein, decided to follow him. Klein was one of the very best teachers at Frederick Douglas High School, a challenged school in a challenged urban neighborhood, Takepart.com reports. Mr. Klein was popular with his students not just because they learned in his class, but, more importantly, because they knew he cared. For weeks, Mr. Klein noticed that Donald was always at the school. For instance, Donald never missed band practice even though he wasn’t in the band. He was always at the girls’ basketball practice. And he even attended the neighborhood community meetings that took place in the school, despite the fact that he was the youngest person at those meetings by about 20 years. It was at the end of one of those community meetings when Mr. Klein decided to follow Donald, one of his favorite students, who came from an abusive and troubled home. Totally undetected, Mr. Klein followed Donald to his locker, where Donald gathered his books and his backpack before walking down the hall…

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