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The Answer Sheet: April 4, 2010 - April 10, 2010

Diane Ravitch’s letter to Florida lawmakers

Here is a letter that education historian Diane Ravitch wrote to Florida lawmakers putting into historical context some of the controversial issues in legislation now on the desk of Gov. Charlie Crist that would change public education in the state. She explains why she thinks that public education would be harmed if the legislation becomes law.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 10, 2010; 11:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Standardized Tests, Teachers  | Tags:  Crist and teachers and bill, Crist and veto, Diane Ravitch, Florida, Florida and teachers, Florida teacher tenure bill, Gov. Charlie Crist, Gov. Crist, House Bill 7189, Senate Bill 6, performance pay for teachers, standardized tests, teacher tenure bill, teachers, teachers and job security, teachers and performance pay  
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Sorry Geoffrey Canada, but failure IS an option, a reality, and even a boon

By Diana Senechal. Calling for more school choice, Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone, began a recent newspaper op-ed with the following: "Visitors to my public charter school often ask how the students feel about the signs on the walls that say: ’Failure is not an option.’ They are surprised to hear that the signs are really for the staff." There are two ethical problems with declaring that failure is not an option.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 9, 2010; 5:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers  | Tags:  Diana Senechal, Harlem Children's Zone, Harlem zone, education reform, guest bloggers, hcz, reform in Harlem  
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Rhee's biggest, and most costly, failing

A former school superintendent, teacher and now a university professor writes about the biggest failing of D.C. Schools Superintendent Michelle Rhee, and why it may ultimately lead to her departure from the city.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 9, 2010; 12:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
Categories:  D.C. Schools, Guest Bloggers, Teachers  | Tags:  D.C. public schools, D.C. teachers pact, Larry Cuban, Michelle Rhee, Rhee and teachers  
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Florida ed reform passes: Is it a model or disaster?

The Florida House early today passed a bill that ends job security for teachers and links teacher pay to student test scores, and the legislation is now in the hands of Gov. Charlie Crist (R). Will he agree with supporters that it is a model for the nation, or with opponents, who say it is extreme, badly crafted and harmful to public education?

By Valerie Strauss  | April 9, 2010; 9:42 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Tags:  Charlie Crist, Florida, Florida governor, Florida teachers, Gov Crist, House bill 7189, NCLB, Senate Bill 6, jeb bush, protester faints, school reform, teacher pay, teacher tenure bill, teachers and protest  
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Allergies can affect kids' grades

School nurses are sending home notes to parents that they are seeing more kids come in with symptoms of allergies, and for many kids, they are more than just an irritant. They can affect how well they do at school.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 9, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Health  | Tags:  allergies, allergies and kids, allergies and school, health  
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Teaching the Civil War: Debate still alive

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s apology for leaving slavery out of a proclamation declaring April as Confederate History Month cannot gloss over the fact that the issue is still alive. While there is little disagreement among professional historians that slavery was the central reason for the secession of 11 Southern states from the union and the eruption of the war, it is still taught as only one of the issues in many Southern schools.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 8, 2010; 11:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  History  | Tags:  causes of civil war, mcpherson and civil war, obama, obama and civil war, obama and history, slavery as cause of civil war, teaching the civil war, virginia gov. civil war, virginia politics  
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Kiplinger’s new tool for understanding financial aid

Kiplinger's has a new online tool to help families understand financial aid letters sent from colleges and universities.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 8, 2010; 10:56 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Costs  | Tags:  Kiplinger's, financial aid, kiplinger's and financial aid, money for college  
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And now, outsourcing the grading of papers

And now, outsourcing the grading of papers. That's what some teachers are doing, through a Virginia company that hires graders most overseas. But how are teachers supposed to properly evaluate student performance if they don’t actually spend time reading and grading their work?

By Valerie Strauss  | April 8, 2010; 8:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Grades, Higher Education  | Tags:  chronicle and grades, grades, outsourcing education, outsourcing grading, teachers  
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Obama ed "blueprint" will widen achievement gaps

By Lisa Guisbond and Monty Neill. Trapping the poorest children in NCLB’s negative cycle and somewhat freeing the rest, will only add to what Jonathan Kozol called "The Shame of the Nation," widening gaps in educational opportunity and quality.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 8, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Lisa Guisbond  | Tags:  Duncan and blueprint, Duncan and school reform, FairTest, Fairtest, No Child Left Behind, Obama and blueprint, Obama and school reform, Obama's blueprint, Race to the Top  
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McPherson on slavery and Virginia's governor

Civil War expert James McPherson says that Virginia Gov. McDonnell had it wrong when he indicated that slavery was not “most significant” for Virginia as an issue during the Civil War period. Let's hope Virginia's student learn Civil War history the way McPherson teaches it.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 7, 2010; 6:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  History  | Tags:  Confederate Month, Gov. McDonnell, James McPherson, Virginia, history  
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The lesson in Rhee’s deal with the WTU

There is a great lesson in the proposed pact struck by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and the Washingotn Teachers Union. And no, it is not that people will take desperate measures to shore up their positions before an election.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 7, 2010; 9:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
Categories:  D.C. Schools  | Tags:  Chancellor Michelle Rhee, D.C. schools, D.C. teachers, D.C. teachers union, Rhee makes deal, teachers and Rhee  
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Texas did not really rewrite history--Sewall

The director of the independent American Textbook Council says that the reports that came out of Texas about conservative changes to the social studies curriculum are wrong.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 7, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  History  | Tags:  T, Texas and history, Texas board of education, Texas conservatives, Texas curriculum, Texas social studies, Texas standards  
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More for Florida educators to be angry about

Florida's teachers are already outraged about legislation expected to become law that would end tenure, require the creation of more standardized tests and link teacher pay to test scores. Now there's a bill that would allow corporations contribute money to a fund that provides school vouchers and then deduct it from their taxes.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 6, 2010; 4:37 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (25)
Categories:  Teachers  | Tags:  Florida, Florida tax credits, Florida teacher tenure bill, Florida vouchers, Senate Bill 2126, Senate Bill 6, Standardized test, school voucher, standardized test, teacher tenure bill, teachers  
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Everything you ever wanted to know about Butler

Go ahead, admit it: You hadn’t really heard about Butler University until it became a contender to win the NCCA 2010 basketball title and came heart-breakingly close to besting Duke to become national champs. Well, here's some things you might want to know.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 6, 2010; 1:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Higher Education  | Tags:  Bulldogs and class, Butler Bulldogs, Butler University, NCAA basketball, classes cancelled at Butler  
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How to decide on a college

Bruce Vinik, a college admissions consultant, explains how best to figure out which college or university to attend--not, it turns out, like his high school friend Jim made his decision.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 6, 2010; 11:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Bruce Vinik, College Admissions, Guest Bloggers  | Tags:  Bruce Vinik, G Duke, attending Duke, choosing a school, college admissions, guest bloggers  
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E.D. Hirsch Jr.: Common Core Standards could revolutionize reading instruction

By E.D. Hirsch, Jr. The Common Core Standards represent a fundamental and long overdue rethinking of the dominant process-approach to U.S. literacy instruction. To appreciate what a radical transformation it represents, one needs to understand how children are now schooled in literacy.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 6, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Reading  | Tags:  Common Core Standards, E.D. Hirsch, guest bloggers, reading  
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College Tour '10: Georgia Tech

Before our visit, we knew Tech had at least three positive attributes - proximity (five hours door-to-door by air from our Florida home to campus), price (even for an out-of-stater, it is less expensive than most private college tuition), weather (winters in the south are tough to beat).

By Valerie Strauss  | April 6, 2010; 6:02 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Tour '10  | Tags:  College Tour '10, Georgia Tech  
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College Tour '10: Vassar College

I also liked that they have tea and cookies in the dorms every night.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 6, 2010; 6:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Tour '10  | Tags:  College Tour '10, Vassar College  
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College Tour '10: Brandeis University

The information session was well done; I understood their requirements and what they look for in a student, and I didn’t feel like I was sitting there for 20 hours.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 6, 2010; 6:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Tour '10  | Tags:  Brandeis University, College Tour '10  
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Willingham: What NAEP reading scores really show

By Daniel Willingham. The belief that kids will be better readers if we simply get them to read more is rooted in the belief that reading comprehension is a transferable skill that, once mastered, applies to any text. That’s true of decoding, but not of comprehension. What’s needed is a substantial knowledge base.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 5, 2010; 12:10 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  Daniel Willingham, Guest Bloggers, Reading  | Tags:  Daniel Willingham, NAEP, guest bloggers, reading  
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Negotiating the price of college -- Flagel, Part 4

Here is the fourth and last part of a college financial aid primer by Andrew Flagel, dean of admissions and associate vice president for enrollment development for George Mason University in Virginia: "The months that colleges and universities package financial aid – can seem a little dirty. I’m not talking DIRTY – I’ve yet to hear about a colleague finding a way to engineer financial aid kickbacks or helping the cartels launder money through financial aid. Clearly, however, the process is neither transparent nor easy to understand. For years I’ve listened to my colleagues cry that we’re NOT used car dealers (by the way, I know some very ethical car dealers), but in the end, it comes down to a basic question for most families: Can we negotiate/change the amount we’ll pay for school?”

By Valerie Strauss  | April 5, 2010; 6:33 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Costs  | Tags:  Andrew Flagel, financial aid, negotiating price  
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All about need-based aid: Flagel, Part 3

Here is the third part of a financial aid primer by Andrew Flagel, dean of admissions and associate vice president for enrollment development for George Mason University in Virginia: “Need-based aid is, for the most part, determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or, in street lingo, FAFSA. Actually, it would more likely be “FAFSizzle”, but that’s not important right now. The U.S. Department of Education works hard every year to make the form easier, but the truth is that any way you cut it the form is going to be somewhat time-consuming and confusing."

By Valerie Strauss  | April 5, 2010; 6:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  Andrew Flagel, FAFSA, financial aid  
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Scholarships: Who gets them and why--Flagel, Part 2

Here is the second part of a primer on financial aid by Andrew Flagel, dean of admissions and associate vice president for enrollment development for George Mason University in Virginia: "No matter how incredible your academic record, you’ll likely be shocked when that kid who slept all through junior year gets a larger scholarship from the same school. How is this possible? Just remember, scholarships are awarded to help colleges and universities get the students they want to enroll, not to be fair, just, or even reasonable.”

By Valerie Strauss  | April 5, 2010; 6:31 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  College Costs  | Tags:  andrew flagel, college costs, financial aid  
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Merit-based aid is "to buy students"--Flagel, Part 1

Here is the first of four posts on financial aid for college, written by Andrew Flagel, dean of admissions and associate vice president for enrollment development for George Mason University in Virginia. Says Flagel: “The vast majority of merit-based aid is used, to put it bluntly, to buy students.”

By Valerie Strauss  | April 5, 2010; 6:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Costs  | Tags:  college costs, financial aid, merit-based aid, need-based aid  
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College Tour '10: Colorado College

The Block Plan is another defining feature about CC. Students take one class at a time for 3 1/2 weeks then having a four-day break. This was originally concerning because of the possibility of not liking a class and being stuck doing nothing but that class for nearly a month. Most students responded to this concern by saying there were very few classes that they did not enjoy and you just have to tough that class out for 3 1/2 weeks, then don’t have to worry about it again.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 4, 2010; 12:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  College Tour '10  | Tags:  College Tour '10, Colorado College  
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College Tour '10: Northwestern University

They kept insisting that spring is beautiful there but spring doesnt take place at the end of March. It was sleeting and snowing and raining, coming down sideways, all at the same time, and I had an umbrella and our feet got really wet and we had to buy new socks. But nothing stops the people of Northwestern. They took care of us.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 4, 2010; 12:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Tour '10  | Tags:  College Tour '10, Northwestern University  
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College Tour '10: Washington University in St. Louis

This looks like the quintessential university. Everything looks pristine, almost like a movie set, and the admissions operation, flawless.... Their info session was the best we had, and we had seen a lot of schools. They had a dynamic professor who had been on campus for 30 years, and they had a student, and an admissions person. We hadn’t seen that combination anywhere else. We learned a lot about the school.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 4, 2010; 12:21 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Tour '10  | Tags:  College Tour '10, Washington University in St. Louis  
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College Tour '10: University of Michigan

The one thing that stood out for us was the football stadium. It is iconic. They call it the Big House, and it is a destination in and of itself. They charge kids a couple hundred dollars for a season of football tickets but everybody loves to go to the games. The school had a lot of school spirit. We really liked the balance of sports and academic excellence, including the honors colleges for freshmen.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 4, 2010; 12:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Tour '10  | Tags:  College Tour '10, University of Michigan  
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College Tour '10: Brown University

We loved Brown because there are no requirements. You can craft your own course of study, and you don’t have to take a language, which is wonderful....We had a wonderful tour guide, and the admissions guy at the information session had a great sense of humor. He stood up and said, “Please make sure there are no typos in your applications. For instance, please don’t spell Brown Y-A-L-E.”

By Valerie Strauss  | April 4, 2010; 12:12 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Tour '10  | Tags:  Brown University, College Tour '10  
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College Tour '10: University of Pennsylvania

The other thing about Penn is that the admissions officer and tour guide talked a lot about being in the Ivy League. Nobody at the other Ivy League schools we visited did that, unless they talked about sports, which is what the Ivy League actually is.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 4, 2010; 12:10 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  College Tour '10  | Tags:  College Tour '10, University of Pennsylvania  
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College Tour '10: Haverford College

Having the Honor Code and the Quaker roots kind of attracts a certain type of motivated yet unpretentious and down-to-earth student and creates a safe, comfortable environment.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 4, 2010; 12:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  College Tour '10  | Tags:  College Tour '10, Haverford College  
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Obama’s ed reform ignores high-quality Pre-K

The director of Pre-K Now says that President Obama's blueprint for education reform ignores the most rigorously evaluated and effective education reform of the last half-century: high-quality pre-kindergarten.

By Valerie Strauss  | April 4, 2010; 9:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Early Childhood, No Child Left Behind  | Tags:  No Child Left Behind, early childhood, pre-kindergarten  
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