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Around-the-web Wednesdays: Duncan on Colbert, and more

Here are some stories worth sharing this week:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Arne Duncan
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Michael Moore

Will it take Comedy Central’s coverage for the US to take education reform seriously? Or is everyone just infatuated with the idea of playing basketball with President Obama? If you missed it, click above to watch Arne Duncan on Colbert Nation. [Colbert Report, 10/5/09]

Race to the Top was formally announced this week and Secretary Duncan put the call out for applicants to “show us their best evidence that their programs will boost student learning.” With $650 million to spend, the administration is literally banking on innovation. [NY Times, 10/6/09]

Secretary Duncan’s attention was temporarily diverted back to his old hometown, Chicago, where he and Attorney General Eric Holder appeared in solidarity with a community outraged by the recent death of a high school student by a group of youths outside a community center. [NPR, 10/7/09]

In higher ed news, the Senate is holding hearings on a measure to increase the maximum Pell grant amount – currently $5,350. The House recently passed the measure. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/6/09]

In Washington, D.C., recent layoffs of over 220 teachers — including one ‘exceptional’ teacher from Anacostia, a high school we’ve been covering for the past two years– has the community up in arms and Chancellor Michelle Rhee defending her tough choices. [Washington Post, 10/6/09]

Rhee and the D.C. teachers union have yet to sign a contract after two years of negotiations – a fascinating dance you can listen to here. [LMTV, 9/21/09]

A new U.S. Census Bureau shows how Latina moms are changing the perception of the nation’s stay-at-home mothers. [NPR, 10/6/09]

And in commentary this week, John Merrow asks: How does geography determine one’s digital destiny? Should schools be doing more? [Taking Note, 10/6/09]

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Weekly Round-Up: Role Models And Innovation

It’s Wednesday afternoon and time to take a look at the stories we’re following this week.

Above: The Providence Effect screens tonight in NYC. For more info visit:

As celebrities fall short as roles models, opinion on what that means for our young people [Edutopia 9/16/09, NY Times 9/16/09 ]
Marion Brady, Deborah Meier and others weigh in when John Merrow asks ‘Where’s the Innovation in Education?’ [Taking Note, 9/15/09]
DC appeals to courts to get out of special education obligation [Washington Post, 9/16/09]
In a first, Teachers Union opens a pilot school in Boston [, 9/10/09]
Texas school district wins 2009 Broad Prize for Urban Education [Houston Chronicle, 9/16/09]

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Taxidermy, live bugs, and rare fauna: a look inside art school!

Ever wondered what goes on inside of art schools?  This video gives you a tour of a unique learning resource for aspiring artists and designers that includes monkey skulls and live insects!, an online marketplace for handmade art and and craft, takes viewers inside the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), one of the most prestigious art schools in the country.

Founded by a RISD alumna in 1937, the Nature Lab “offers the opportunity to examine, explore and understand the patterns, structures and interactions of design in nature.” Its collection includes over 80,000 natural history objects, live animals and plants, and the facility includes a study room devoted to a natural history reference library and clipping file, archives of slides, tapes, videos and x-ray photographs.

Rhode Island School of Design [Official website]

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Math Wars!

wolfram alpha WolframAlpha, a search engine that launched several weeks ago, runs on the sophisticated computational software Mathematica, to compute answers to questions. Unlike google or other search engines, it accomplishes this by using built-in models of fields of knowledge, complete with data and algorithms, that represent real-world knowledges; massive amounts of data about various physical laws and properties. As Jeffrey R. Young writes in The Chronicle today, “It makes a graphing calculator look like a slide rule.”

What will that mean for the study of mathematics? Will students be allowed to use WolframAlpha inside or outside of the classroom? Professors have shown mixed sentiments of both excitement and caution, and it’s making for an interesting discussion about learning in general.

Roger A. Freedman, a physics lecturer at the University of California at Santa Barbara summarized: “the greatest challenges that science and math students face are conceptual, not computational, and neither calculators nor WolframAlpha can do much about that.”

Read the Full Article:
Calculating Web Site Could Ignite New Campus ‘Math War’ [Chronicle, 6/12/09]

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Feeling Jilted

In mid-May, the Obama administration released its education budget plan. michael_lomax1 Among those potentially disappointed by the plan are the nation’s historically black colleges and universities. Obama’s plan cuts $85 million in funding for HBCUs; the $85 million comes from a larger funding bill passed two years ago, that devoted extra funding to colleges and universities attended by large numbers of minority and low-income students. According to Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund, Obama supported the bill “vigorously” as a senator. In light of this new budget, Lomax and others invested in the future of HBCUs are left wondering how much support they can expect from the President in the coming years.

Listen to Lomax on NPR
Read more in the Chronicle of Higher Education

Related Program: Saving Black Colleges [NewsHour, 2/25/04]

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The Condition of Education 2009

The National Center for Education Statistics released its annual “Condition of Education” report today–it’s an excellent resource for anyone interested in some real statistics about U.S. education. The figures on education and earnings will come as no surprise, but they may counter some of the recent ideas about whether a college education is worth its cost. earnings

Interesting stats include:

• In 2007, adults ages 25-34 with a Bachelor’s earned 29% more than those whose highest attainment was an associate’s and 55% more than those whose highest attainment was a high school diploma or equivalent.

• The median earnings: Bachelor’s: $45,000; Associate’s: $35,000; High School Diploma or equivalent: $29,000; no HS diploma or equivalent: $23,000.

Young adult males earned $50,000; $10,000 more than adult females.

• White young adults had higher median earnings than their Black or Hispanic counterparts at each level of educational attainment.

Asian young adults with a bachelor’s, master’s, or higher had higher earnings than their White, Black, and Hispanic counterparts.

Get the full report from the IES [National Center for Education Statistics]

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Forgive? Or Forget?

The federal government has been busy making big changes to students loans, reducing subsidies to lenders to tackle the high cost of the federal student loan program.forgive

But what about graduates who took out loans and went into careers in public service, such at nursing and teaching, with the understanding that their loans would be forgiven in exchange for service? It looks like the recession is causing some states to go back on their promises — Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Iowa and New Hampshire have all made big changes to their loan forgiveness programs.

Travis B. Gay, a special education teacher in Kentucky who is suddenly facing debt he thought would be forgiven, told the New York Times “I remember sitting in the financial aid office and them saying, ‘Pay for every penny of it, pay for your books through loans, because they’re going to be forgiven.’ ” He’s now considering a career in public relations.

Recession Puts Loan Forgiveness Programs in Peril [NY Times]

Related Program: The Costs of Higher Ed [VIDEO]

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The Future of Work

In the New York Times magazine last weekend, ‘The Case for Working With Your Hands,’ by Matthew B. Crawford, argued some personal and professional reasons why a job ‘working with your hands’ is be preferable to one in the ‘surreal’ world of office or academic life.
workwithhandsThe essay is worth a read and asks important questions for anyone in the education community. What are the jobs of the future? And are schools preparing students for them? Are ‘hands on’ jobs more dependable in an economic downturn? What does a college degree mean anymore? Crawford writes:

The Princeton economist Alan Blinder argues that the crucial distinction in the emerging labor market is not between those with more or less education, but between those whose services can be delivered over a wire and those who must do their work in person or on site. The latter will find their livelihoods more secure against outsourcing to distant countries. As Blinder puts it, “You can’t hammer a nail over the Internet.” Nor can the Indians fix your car. Because they are in India.

The Case for Working With Your Hands [NY Times 5/24/09]
Related Program: Discounted Dreams [VIDEO]
Related Program: Starting Over [VIDEO]

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The Dropout Count in North Carolina

A high school diploma is a mark of graduating high school, right?  Not necessarily.  About 30 percent of North Carolina’s high school students drop out of their local high schools and finish required coursework–and graduate–later at community colleges.  Technically they’re high school graduates, but the state records them as dropouts.

Graduation?But a growing number of state legislators and education leaders want students who seek high school credentials from community colleges to be counted as if they had finished at local high schools. State legislators sponsored a bi-partisan bill that eventually stalled and died because of questions about how to keep track of students once they leave high school.”

The bill, however, re-ignited the question of national standards.

Lyndsay Pinkus, the director of strategic initiatives for the Alliance for Excellent Education said, Graduation in four years is a clean and simple measure, Pinkus said. Even if students go on to get alternative diplomas that doesn’t change the fact that the school didn’t reach a specific goal.”

State considers changing status of dropouts [North Carolina News & Observer, May 20, 2009]

Related Program: Discounted Dreams [Video]

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Educated? Unemployed? Welcome to Portland, Oregon

This year’s graduates face a tough job market, with unemployment on the rise across the country. So what’s a young, unemployed college graduate to do? If recent history is any indication they may just move to Portland, Oregon.

Portland’s unemployment rate has doubled in the last year and is hovering at 11.8% (the national average is 8.9%) — due in part to an influx of young, educated unemployed new residents.  The fraction of Oregon workers with college degrees increased to 28.3% in 2007 (above the national average of 27.5%) from 19.5% in 1990 (below the national average of 21.3%), and Portland’s mayor is hoping that the college grads will stick around while the economy straightens itself  out.

Certain lifestyle quirks, such as a vibrant music scene, seem to go far in attracting young people to the city despite the lack of jobs. Other fun facts? Other than Seattle, no city with a population over 1 million has more coffee shops per capita and roughly 8% of Portlanders commute regularly by bike, the highest proportion of any major U.S. city and about 10 times the national average.

Youth Magnet Cities Hit Midlife Crisis [Wall Street Journal, 5/16/09]

Touring Portland by Bike [New York Times, 4/3/09]

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