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Brain Ooze in Detroit

by Elena on Oct 20th, 2009

Ever since he lectured Theo on the merits of a college degree on the first-ever episode of “The Cosby Show,” Bill Cosby has been an outspoken advocate of education in the African-American community. This week on “Taking Note,” his blog, John Merrow interviews Robert C. Bobb, the Emergency Financial Manager of Detroit Public Schools, who attracted Cosby’s attention to the woefully under-performing–not to mention broke–school district last year. Though Detroit is in much the same boat as a lot of large, urban public school systems–like Washington, D.C., where Bobb used to serve on the school board–it has its own unique set of problems, among them overspending, corruption and what the Detroit newscaster below describes as “apathy among some Detroit families.” Detroit has for years now been a kind of ghost town, romanticized–as in these photos by two French photographers for TIME–for its “beautiful, horrible decline.” Will Ghost Dad be able to help? Read Merrow’s interview and watch the Detroit news coverage below to learn more about Bobb and Cosby’s efforts to make over Detroit Public Schools.

Bill Cosby, Back in the “D” [WJBK FOX 2 Detroit, MI, 9/13/09]
Detroit’s Beautiful, Horrible Decline [TIME, March 2009]


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

by Amanda on Oct 7th, 2009

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]


Discussion: Using Technology in the Classroom

by Learning Matters on Oct 6th, 2009

In a recent post on his blog, John Merrow wrote about using technology more widely in schools in order to increase learning opportunities to students. He quotes a recent study sponsored by the Knight Foundation that suggests that the U.S. has a “second class information citizenship.”

One Laptop Per Child

Many of us seem to be living in a world of information overload, but many people still lack access to the same technology that we take for granted. This “digital divide” is playing out all over, and is especially problematic when it comes to education. Because while some schools have all the latest gadgets and students get to learn using technology in innovative ways, there are students in less economically advantaged schools who don’t get that opportunity.

It got us thinking: how are teachers nationwide using technology in the classroom?  Could access to technology invigorate and democratize education?

If you’re a teacher or administrator, we’d love to know how you’re using technology in your classrooms or districts. Have initiatives in your schools or districts been successful? What challenges have you encountered along the way?

Share your stories here or join the discussion we’ve got going on Facebook.


Media Monday: Papers, An (Un)Documentary

by Learning Matters on Sep 21st, 2009

For many students graduating high school is an exciting step in a journey towards higher education. But for the more than 65,000 undocumented students in the U.S., graduation often signals a dead stop in the road.

Federal law doesn’t prohibit undocumented students from attending college, but there are major admissions obstacles for students without papers: it’s difficult to obtain in-state tuition and nearly impossible to apply for financial aid. And because they lack papers, they also can’t work in order to save up money to attend college. These are often students who have been in the U.S. for much of their lives, attending elementary and middle school. So why shouldn’t they have access to the same resources as their native-born peers?

The DREAM Act has been introduced in Congress and aims to increase access for undocumented students. If passed it would “allow undocumented immigrant youth who were brought to the country as children to obtain legal permanent resident status if they remain in school through high school graduation and go on to college or military service.”

Papers is a new film that draws attention to this issue and hopes to spark advocacy on behalf of undocumented students. The film introduces us to six characters–based on real-life undocumented youth–who share their stories and the challenges they face as they turn 18 and graduate high school without legal papers. The film begins nationwide screenings in October; in the meantime, you can read more about the DREAM Act and the struggles of undocumented students in the report, “Young Lives on Hold.

Watch the trailer:

Papers, The Movie [Official website]
Young Lives on Hold: The College Dreams of Undocumented Students [College Board Report, 04/21/09]

Related Program: Lost in Translation [LMTV]


Got School?

by Elena on Sep 15th, 2009

Last Tuesday, President Obama delivered a speech directed at American schoolchildren (read John Merrow’s blog post about the speech here). The content of the speech, as one commenter on YouTube suggested, fell in line with what most of us remember our principals and teachers drumming into our heads.  For instance, the last lines of the speech: “I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down — don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.” The president came off as paternal, affectionate, and sternly encouraging.

Despite the speech’s basically uncontroversial message, the days leading up to its delivery witnessed a rash of appearances by Republican congressman Jim Greer, who objected to the speech and the lesson plan that the Department of Education created to go along with it. Greer and others worried that the speech would be propagandistic; the accompanying lesson plan, they noted, included a space for students to list how they could help the Obama administration. Concern from politicians quickly bled into concern from parents, like this mom, interviewed by FOX news:

What may turn out to be more controversial than President Obama’s speech is a short documentary that aired the same night and happens to feature him prominently. “Get Schooled” is a 30-minute film that traces three young adults with “cool jobs” to their educational origins. The documentary is the first effort in a 5-year collaboration between Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and was aired on all of Viacom’s networks, including MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon.

Clearly targeted at children and adolescents, “Get Schooled” profiles Latesha, Jason and Sarah, who work for Lebron James, Kelly Clarkson and President Obama, respectively. Though intentions here may all be good, it’s hard not to feel as if some familiar American stereotypes about class and race get in the way of the film’s gung-ho message. Why, for instance, did only one of the three characters make it through college? Are writing a speech for the President, arranging a pop song and organizing an event for a celebrity really equivalent tasks?

We encourage you to watch the full documentary on the “Get Schooled” website, and to tell us what you think.

“Get Schooled” [aired 9/8/09]
Obama urges students to work hard, stay in school [, 9/8/09]

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