Terri Griffin made herself a promise when her youngest daughter was ready for kindergarten: the little girl would never set foot in an Akron public school. Griffin, an Akron jewelry store clerk who is a graduate of the Ohio city’s school system, had sent eight children–two of her own and six others she raised as her own–to traditional public schools, TIME reports. She felt they were pushed through to a diploma and didn’t learn enough. Teachers were eager to recommend special education, but Griffin couldn’t get them to provide other basic extra help. Two years ago when her youngest daughter was entering kindergarten, she sought out a charter school, Lighthouse Academy, and hoped for a better outcome. Griffin didn’t know about the Lighthouse Academy’s low test scores or that it had been identified by the state as being in an academic emergency on and off since opening in 2000. Instead, when she visited the West Akron school, Griffin saw caring teachers working with small classes in a school that was well established in the community. She hasn’t once regretted her decision……Read More
Kevin Jennings knows a thing or two about the American Dream. He came from a trailer park in Lewisville, N.C., where he was raised by a single mother who had a sixth-grade education, TIME reports. Jennings went on to become the newly appointed CEO of Be the Change, a nonprofit organization that creates national issue-based campaigns. He also previously served as a deputy secretary in the Department of Education under President Barack Obama, founded a national organization that seeks to end homosexual discrimination and holds a trio of degrees from Harvard, Columbia and New York University. Suffice to say, Jennings’ mother, now deceased, would be proud. But stories like Jennings’ are becoming harder to come by. “We’re in a critical moment in history where we could see this being the first generation where our kids do less well than we did,” he says. Which is why Jennings’ organization and some 200 others banded to host Opportunity Nation on Nov. 3 and 4 at Columbia University in New York City……Read More
With their economy booming, their currency at a level that makes even London prices seem cheap and their foreign policy one of the world’s most ambitious (President Dilma Rousseff this week will to be the first woman ever to open debate at the U.N. General Assembly), Brazilians have gotten used to going abroad for tourism, business, shopping and diplomacy, TIME reports. Now their students are finally getting an incentive to see the world, thanks to a major government program that aims to award 75,000 scholarships to attend the world’s top universities. Available only to Brazilians studying subjects of strategic national importance, like engineering, they reflect “an effort by the government to take a quantum leap in the formation of a scientific and technological elite,” says Aloizio Mercadante, Brazil’s Science and Technology Minister……Read More
There are too many women in English schools, declared British Prime Minister David Cameron. In order to restore authority in the classrooms, Cameron thinks that the presence of male teachers-who can show both “strength and sensibility -should be reinforced as soon as possible, TIME reports. The idea has been given some thought in France as well. An advisor close to French President Nicolas Sarkozy said “there are too many women teachers” and that the situation should be “more balanced.”…Read More
Is it the best of times or end times for public charter schools? Asks TIME. 4,000 charter school leaders, teachers, advocates, and policymakers will gather in Atlanta later this month at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference. The gathering of upstarts is now larger than many long-standing traditional education groups can muster, but in states and cities across the country, charter schools are facing increased political pressure and scrutiny. In Georgia, the state’s supreme court just ruled that the arrangements for charter schools are unconstitutional. Welcome to town!…Read More
The Obama Administration is doubling down on its push to overhaul the federal No Child Left Behind Act, reports TIME. Last Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before Congress and aggressively urged action to revise the landmark and contentious education law that was passed in 2001. The President began this week with a speech at a northern Virginia middle school urging Congress to act and then spent part of Tuesday cutting several radio interviews prodding Capitol Hill even more. This isn’t the first time the Administration has implored Congress to change this law: it’s been a constant drumbeat since 2009 (the law was due to be “reauthorized,” Washingtonspeak for tuned up, in 2007 but Congress couldn’t agree on how to do it) and even during the 2008 campaign. Now, frustrated with the lack of action, Obama and Duncan are trying a new approach: scaring Congress into acting. Both Obama and Duncan are highlighting Department of Education estimates that more than 80% of schools will not meet performance targets this year if the law isn’t changed. One wag dubbed the new strategy a “fail wail.”…Read More
This isn’t eerie at all: Geminoid DK, in conjunction with Professor Henrik Scharfe of Aalborg University in Denmark, has created a robotic version of the associate professor that looks identical to him, Time reports. If it weren’t enough that the robot looked exactly like Scharfe, it also mimics the professor’s shrugs and facial expressions. The Japanese firm focuses on creating lifelike machine versions of real people and has had success making people look twice at machines like this one, which strikes an uncanny resemblance to robotics professor and creator Hiroshi Ishiguro. This device in particular will be sent back to Denmark where it will be used to study human interactions with robots in different cultural contexts, Fast Company reports……Read More
Beef jerky, Rice Krispie treats and four varieties of Mazzio’s pizza are a few of the À la carte choices in the lunchroom at Jenks High School outside Tulsa, Okla., where football is king and the players have royal appetites. But those items, plus the one-pint cartons of whole chocolate milk beloved by many players – average weight on the offensive line is 250 lb. – could be gone now that the federal government has issued new restrictions on fat and sodium offered during the school day, reports Time…”Just a typical unfunded mandate,” sighs Jenks principal Mike Means as he contemplates guidelines predicted to cost schools an extra 14 cents per lunch – of which the feds will pay only 6 cents. Washington hopes that school districts will get more creative in controlling expenses and menu planning. Principal Means thinks kids about to enter the real world need to learn how to make choices on their own–without the government breathing down their gullet. Do they want a slice of pepperoni pizza or a healthier serving of turkey-pepperoni pie? All of this is looming because the U.S. Department of Agriculture in January proposed sweeping new nutrition standards for school lunches: limiting French fries and starch to one cup per week, lowering calorie limits and sodium levels, replacing whole milk with skim or 1% and mandating leafy greens and red and orange veggies like squash. The rules will affect some 30 million lunches served in America each school day. Next on the USDA’s target list: À la carte items and so-called competitive foods–like the Mazzio’s and Arby’s available in the Jenks cafeteria and the Donatos pizza being served at high schools in Columbus, Ohio……Read More
States are the toast of Washington again. Tea Partiers and the incoming Republican majority in the House of Representatives idealize them. When Congress read the U.S. Constitution last week, the 10th Amendment – the one reserving power to the states – was an applause line. Of course, celebrating states and localism is nothing new. More than 150 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville declared that it is “the political effects of decentralization that I most admire in America.” More recently, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis hailed states as “laboratories of democracy.” But when it comes to education, we shouldn’t lionize states when they’re too often failing to fix our schools, Time reports.
Consider two recent examples. In 2008 then-Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings asked states for creative ways to improve failing schools and offered regulatory waivers to support the best ideas. The response? Underwhelming. “States were not bold enough in seeking meaningful and disruptive change to confront school failure,” Spellings told me the other day…
Jackson Browne is a commercially successful and critically acclaimed musician. (When he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen did the honors.) He is also a longtime activist on causes ranging from Tibetan independence to opposing nuclear power. And now he has added school board member to his resume, reports Time. In November, Browne, 62, joined the board of the Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF), a high-performing network of publicly funded charter schools in South Central Los Angeles. With 15 campuses and 4,600 students, ICEF’s schools are among the best in the city; 100% of its graduating seniors get into college, and 91% are still enrolled three years later. This is no fairy-tale operation, however. The school made news this fall when fiscal problems prompted management changes, and just this week ICEF announced a new $10.5 million infusion of funds from individuals and foundations.
But the money issues haven’t stopped Browne from describing ICEF’s founder, Mike Piscal, as an incredible example of someone who rolls up their sleeves to solve a social problem. I spoke with the Hall of Famer turned school board member about his sympathy for parents who opt out of traditional public schools, why he never went to college and what qualifies him to help bring education reform to inner-city students.
You have a history of activism on a host of issues. Why education?
I’ve always supported education, especially music education in Los Angeles public schools. It goes hand in hand with my other activism. There should be access for everyone, and public education doesn’t effectively address this right now.…Read More