Reform is Approved in Michigan

Today Detroit News announced on their webpage that Michigan legislators passed  education reform, which allows them to qualify for the $400 million up for contention in the Race to the Top campaign.

Seems like Michigan is set to change the way the state handles education, with Legislation coming up with a list of laws they plan to follow in order to compete competitively for the reform money. I like the idea of having a separate cyber high school for students who choose to drop out of high school. My only question would be if a kid that dropped out be willing to attend a cyber school or not? I have to wonder what these schools will have to offer in order to convince students who weren’t interested in attending a regular high school in the first place.

Lawmakers also gained cooperation from teacher unions, which plays a part in who gets the award money for the Race to the Top program.  Despite this however, there is still opposition from the Michigan Education Association and the Detroit Federation of Teachers, more specifically toward bargaining made for teachers that are working in failing schools taken over by the state. Iris Salters, president of the Michigan Education Association felt that though they made the steps necessary to agree with the Race to the Top program, they do not agree of stripping away educators’ rights of helping students in struggling schools. I agree, it would not be right to take away the right for them to decide what to do with students and the school in general. They are the ones working there after all so they should have at least some say in what is going to happen in the schools.

Still, its great news to hear, and so close near the holidays! 🙂 Hopefully Michigan will keep their word and work on improving the schools, not to mention maybe they’ll mention more about these ‘cyber high schools’ I’m curious to see if it is going to be something like a virtual classroom or something different.

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No More Free Tuition From Harvard

On Wednesday, the New York Times reported on Harvard ending their program, the Public Service Initiative, after having an unexpectedly large

Harvard University's Logo

amount of students sign up for it.

Like a lot of private schools have been doing, the one I’m more familiar with here in Texas being Rice University, there were programs being created to bring in more students to the school. The tuition would either be waived the first year if they were a first generation student, or they would get free intuition their first year. Harvard’s program offered to pay the tuition for third-year students who pledged to spend five years working for either a private, non-profit organization or the government.

Now it seems the programs that were created to benefit students and families tight on money are being cut to save money for the institution:

Harvard’s endowment declined 27 percent between June 2008 and June 2009, falling to $26 billion, and the university has adopted a number of cost-cutting moves. In fact, on Tuesday, Harvard’s largest division, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, announced a voluntary retirement plan for professors. Other schools will offer similar packages in the near future.

Although there is a positive mixed in with the loss of the program. The money that was used toward the Public Service Initiative will move to other programs, including a loan-repayment plan for graduate students who are working low-paying jobs. Something that is heavily needed with today’s economy. And despite the program being dropped, Harvard (as well as other law schools) offer free-tuition scholarships to students for their first three years.

Still, if Harvard is starting to cut back on programs that helped out families that were tight on money, it will only be a matter of time before other colleges follow in their direction. Hopefully, though, other schools will have other programs, like Harvard offers, that will help out students that are having a harder time paying for school.

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Hutchinson’s Education Plan Lacking in Originality

Hutchinson; running candidate for govenor in TexasWhile Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who’s running for governor in Texas, criticizes Governor Rick Perry’s Education plans and goals, she’s receiving criticism herself because her list of proposals is very similar to programs that already exist.

Still, even though she may not have anything new on her proposals, at least she lists them on her site, unlike Perry’s who doesn’t have much, save for a mention of  expanding STEM schools and the UTeach program, which specializes in training math and science teachers at the University of Texas in an article on his site.

So at the moment, Hutchinson’s education plan, resembles pretty much the plan from the Texas Education Agency site, but I’m curious to see what she and her campaign team will do to make her stand out from Rick Perry’s. I’m wondering if her campaign will change the claim that her plan for the Education system won’t “throw more tax dollars at the problem”

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White House Looking to Make Science and Math Fun

The White House is continuing to promote science and math in education with some extra help, mainly coming from Sesame Street characters, former astronaut Sally Ride, video game programmers, and other technological organizations.

The program, called Educate to Innovate, is supposed to bring awareness the importance of math and science in schools. There’s more about the campaign in the New York Times article here.

Though there were people who felt the promotion that went on wasn’t showing the real issue, the event did catch the attention of big companies, including Discovery, which plans on airing a two-hour block of programming on their Science Channel that focuses on science and airs when children come home from school. Game programmers want to create video games that deal with math, which I think is a great idea. There used to be a mix of educational games along with other fun ones when I was younger, but I don’t really see it too much anymore. Most games have to do with promoting a new animated movie  of some sort or pretending to be in a rock band or be a model.

So while it doesn’t seem like much, it’s important to spread the word out there, even if it’s through big companies, because it catches people’s attention. The inclusion of games and having a block of programming for kids in the afternoon makes math and science not just a boring subject in school, but something fun. While I wish I had more math shows or cartoons that made it more fun for me, the science programs I watched in elementary school, like Bill Nye the Science Guy and the Magic School Bus,  always made the subject interesting to me.

Also, I like what Obama said at the White House during a science fair that was being held there:

Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models, and here at the White House, we’re going to lead by example. We’re going to show young people how cool science can be.

I agree, there aren’t really a lot of scientists and engineers that kids readily admire and what the White House is doing is great, I just hope they keep with it and don’t lose sight of it and it ends up on the back burner again.

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Massachusetts Senate Passes Education Reform Bill

Today the  Senate in Massachusetts voted 28-11 for the Education Reform Bill that plans on boosting underperforming schools, as well as allowing more charter schools to develop. You can read more about it here.

Though it passed, it seems a lot of members aren’t too fond of the bill and were trying to push their other colleagues not to support the new bill, which includes requiring charter schools to recruit and retain students of low-income families, English language learners, and those at risk of dropping out.

I’d say if they’re making charter schools recruit these students, then they need to have the necessary programs for these other students so that it doesn’t mess up the school as a whole. Some schools that have taken in students from different financial and education areas have suffered because of the new batch of students and their reputation was knocked down because of this. I say this because this happened to my elementary school when they started accepting students that had a hard time learning or were in-between the cracks and were outside of the district. Many of the older and better teachers left, and so the school had almost all new faculty with teachers that were just starting out. Now I’m not saying all schools suffer a similar fate, but I do think if they plan on doing something like that, that they need to be prepared for it and make sure their faculty is up to the task.

Now, since Senate passed the bill, it’s up to the House to pass the bill, which some reporters are thinking they won’t pass in time, which will be around the new year in January in order to qualify for federal funds.

I’m curious to see what House will decide to do once the bill heads in their direction, from what it sounded like, members of House may be just as split on the idea as some of their colleagues in the Senate.

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Board of Education President in Chicago dies

I just found out a few minutes ago that the board of education president, Michael Scott apparently killed himself near the Chicago River Monday 

Michael Scott

 morning. As far as I know of, there wasn’t anything suspicious about him, as far as any sort of outward  problem. The one thing I did read about in a Bloomberg article was that he was being subpoenaed by a federal grand jury about having preferences over some students verses others for admission into elite public schools. Though the case hadn’t been proven, and Scott himself stated that he didn’t do it, some people were angry over him being president of the school board, but I doubt it was enough to make him that upset.

The article did mention though, that he was upset over Chicago mayor Richard Daley’s control over the city’s education establishment. Still, it’s a loss to the board of education and my condolences go out to his family.

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Education Pros and Cons

I know this is coming late, but I just ran into this article towards the end of the week myself. Anyway, my school has a weekly newspaper that it puts out called the Maroon Weekly and this week, they had a little article done by two separate writers over the pros and cons of a public education. One points out the benefits of the government having control of the education system, while the other article argues against the government’s involvement in education. You can view the Pros article here and the Cons of a public education here.

While I agree with the pro article that the government should take responsibility for the education system, I also agree with Tony Listi’s con argument that parents should have the right to choose what school their children go to.  Simply because many children don’t have access to schools that offer a more substantial education mostly because of location. However, what if a parent cannot make the trip out to the school, especially in this economy where money is tight and gas prices are starting to rise again. Or what if there isn’t a bus that goes to the other school? Some bus stops only extend to certain areas and past that the student has to find their own transportation to and from school. In the case of this, I’d say the government needs to step in and improve schools in all areas and not just certain ones.

The one argument that Listi makes is that children are taught to embrace lies, atheism, socialism, and sexual perversity. Now I don’t know about all schools in the U.S. but I don’t look at it as schools teaching children all of these negative things. I see it as teachers giving their students an objective overview of events so that they can choose whether they think something is right or wrong. I never felt pushed to embrace atheism or socialism, my own views were my own, and the same could be said with my other classmates and friends. Some of us had our own opinions that differed from our parents/guardians, and some of us didn’t drift far from what our parents taught us. It all depends on the individual and I think that’s how it should be.

At least toward the end of Listi’s argument, he does say that parents can have the right to take their children to a private institution, whether it’s affiliated with a church denomination or not, and that’s fine. Parents have the right to do whatever they think would benefit the child or make them happy. But when it comes down to public education, you can’t always have your cake and eat it too. You can’t include everything in education because somewhere along the way someone will get offended by something. The system would have to constantly change their curriculum just to make it politically correct, and yet have it be balanced, which is where the system currently is now. Until there is a new solution for public schools and the curriculum being taught, it will more than likely stay the way that it is.

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