Minnesota eases restrictions on online education following internet dust-up

Hey, all you colleges and universities not in Minnesota: Want to offer a free, online, not-for-credit course to people living here, no questions asked? This is your lucky day, TwinCities.com reports. The state has stopped enforcing a 20-year-old statute requiring such institutions to go through a lengthy registration process before they could offer no-cost internet coursework. The move on Friday, Oct. 19, was prompted by an online article involving Coursera, a Silicon Valley startup that works with dozens of colleges and universities to offer some of their courses online for free. The bulk of those schools aren’t registered with Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education as current law requires, and months ago the state office informed Coursera. So Coursera amended its terms of service to reflect this, though it disagreed with Minnesota’s position and considered the requirement onerous and “unfortunate.”

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State of school funding in Washington like ‘a wartime setting’

With the state dramatically scaling back its funding, Superintendent Nick Brossoit has had to cut back on just about everything in the Edmonds School District, Stateline reports. Everybody who works for the suburban Seattle district, including Brossoit, took five furlough days last year and will take another three this year. Brossoit eliminated programs for struggling students, foreign language classes and sections of advanced math and science courses. Parents helped pull weeds and trim bushes before the start of this school year, because the district halved its grounds keeping crew. Some science classrooms do not have enough lab stations or chairs for every student.

“It’s almost like being in a wartime setting,” says Brossoit, the head of a group of parents and schools that sued the state in 2007 over insufficient funding. “We’re hunkered down, waiting for air support.”

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Texas schools head to trial over school finance

Texas lawmakers cut $5.4 billion from public schools nearly 18 months ago, and now districts are headed to court to argue that the resulting system is so inefficient and unfair that it violates the state constitution, the Associated Press reports. Simply restoring funding to levels prior to the 2011 legislative session won’t be enough to fix the fundamentally flawed way Texas funds its schools, lawyers for the districts say. They point out that the cuts have come even as the state requires schools to prepare students for standardized tests that are getting more difficult, and amid a statewide boom in the number of low-income students that are especially costly to educate. Putting the money back would make things easier, they say.

“That’s not all it’s about, but that would be a start,” said John Turner, an attorney representing about 60 of the school districts suing…

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A&T professor is taking debate online

Tonight, students can react to the presidential debate in real time.

People who pay attention to presidential debates are used to watching them on TV in the den with family members or maybe alongside friends at a corner tavern or civic club.

The next day, at work, they might gather round the water cooler with co-workers to replay the most telling moments and see who shares their perceptions.

But tonight, a professor at N.C. A&T is using social media to create a group setting online, where participants can react as the debate unfolds.

New-media expert Kim Smith will host the online equivalent of a conference call in which his students — and anyone else who wants — can comment live on the last presidential debate of the 2012 campaign.

“Now we’re able to do the analysis in real time as it happens,” said Smith, who teaches classes at A&T in new media and society, minorities and the mass media, and multimedia journalism. “I’m really interested in seeing if it gets any public traction outside the university.”

The event is made possible by the “CoveritLive” website, which creates virtual “rooms” for people who want to watch an event together and text about it in a moderated format.

Smith got the idea of bringing his students together online for debate reaction last school year, during the Republican presidential candidate debates of the primary season.

“I was trying to figure out a way to engage students in talking about what was going on,” he said of the search that led him to www.coveritlive.com. “I wanted to use it as a way to promote interest in politics, education and debate.”

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Study connects parent’s education, income to child’s brain development

A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscientists found a correlation between a parent’s income and education level and the development of certain areas of their child’s brain that relate to learning, memory and stress processing, the Huffington Post reports. The study analyzed the brain images of subjects whose parents had between eight and 21 years of education and incomes that ranged from below poverty level to over $140,000 for a family of four. The study was led by Kimberly Noble, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia, in conjunction with Elizabeth Sowell, a professor of pediatrics at USC. Noble found that the hippocampal region of the brain, which is essential in learning and memory function, had a larger volume for subjects who were raised by parents with higher incomes…

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Watch: Boy kicked out of school for his genetic makeup

Colman Chadam, an 11-year-old California boy, has been ordered to transfer from his current school to another one miles away because of his genetic makeup. Now, his parents are taking the issue to court, the Huffington Post reports. Colman carries the genetic mutations for cystic fibrosis, a noncontagious but incurable and life-threatening disease. Despite the gene’s presence, the Jordan Middle School student in Palo Alto doesn’t actually have the disease and doesn’t exhibit the typical symptoms of thick mucus that can clog and infect the lungs. Cystic fibrosis is inherited from both parents and while not contagious, can pose a threat if two people with the disease are in close contact. In an effort to protect other students at the school who do have the disease, officials declared that Colman would have to transfer out to prevent cross contamination…

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How ‘Exam Schools’ fared in the best high schools rankings

In the new book, Exam Schools: Inside America’s Most Selective Public High Schools, the authors examine institutions with selective admissions processes, U.S. News reports. Many of these public schools did very well in the 2012 U.S. News Best High Schools rankings, accounting for 7 of the top 10 schools in the national rankings; 11 of the top 25; and 24 of the top 50. In an article entitled “Exam Schools from the Inside” in Education Next, authors Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Jessica A. Hockett discussed how exam schools have evolved in the United States:

“[T]hese academically selective institutions have long been a part of the American secondary-education landscape. The schools are diverse in origin and purpose … Some arose from a desire (among parents, superintendents, school boards, governors, legislators) to provide a self-contained, high-powered college-prep education for able youngsters in a community, region, or state. Others started through philanthropic ventures or as university initiatives. A number of them were products of the country’s efforts to desegregate–and integrate–its public-education system, prompted by court orders, civil rights enforcers and activists, or federal ‘magnet school’ dollars.”

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Governor issues executive order to expand pre-k program

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue Thursday issued an executive order authorizing the expansion of the NC Pre-K program to serve up to 6,300 additional children by Jan. 1, 2013, the Sun Journal reports. An estimated 1,000 of those children will be served immediately in Pre-K classrooms across the state. The North Carolina Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a lower court ruling Aug. 21 mandating that the state not deny any eligible “at-risk” 4-year-old admission to the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program. Perdue identified $20 million in projected unspent funds from the Department of Health and Human Services to pay for the enrollment slots. None of the money comes from early education programs. The funding will be distributed to counties prior to the end of 2012 to fund expanded enrollment through the reminder of the 2012-2013 academic year…

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