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arne duncan

2010 Commencement Speakers

GraduationDuring a time with record high unemployment rates, graduating seniors are looking forward to the advice of their college commencement speakers regarding their professional pursuits and for motivation for success in the highly competitive American job market.

Here is a list of some of the nation’s highlighted commencement speakers:

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Foundations to Offer School Programs $506 Million to Match Federal Grants

Funding CheckA dozen wealthy foundations have announced that they will be collaborating to donate $506 million to match the federal grant funding program Investing in Innovation.

The foundations specifically are looking to invest in programs that encourage innovation in the classroom and also create new and innovative ideas for strengthening low-performing schools.

The foundations supporting the Investing in Innovation program include the following:

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Should NCAA Teams Be Disqualified Based on Graduation Rates?

ncaaThe U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has high expectations for college basketball players. Duncan recently stated his opinion that if at least 40 percent of a college’s players do not graduate, that team should be banned from any NCAA tournament. Duncan’s statement was based off the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport’s annual report of graduation rates for NCAA basketball teams. This report showed several of the top teams in the nation as being at the bottom of the list.

However, does graduation rate really matter when you are talking about college basketball players? The University of Maryland coach Gary Williams doesn’t think so:

“Obviously, those years we had players leave early and they’re millionaires now, and they’re coming back to get their degrees, just like other guys have come back and gotten their degrees,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

New System Holds Universities Responsible for Training Teachers

apple for teacherImagine this: Jenny Smith is a second-year teacher at a Happytown Elementary. Her students have been acing every standardized test they take. Smith is so proud of her students. But Smith isn’t the only one who is proud of the people who have learned from her; the college that Smith earned her degree from is also benefiting from the improved scores on her students’ tests.

On the opposite end of the spectrum: Jake Snow is another new teacher at Frownyville Middle School. His students’ test scores have been falling every year that he has been teaching. And now, the university where Snow graduated from is being scrutinized to see if they are adequately training their students.

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What is the Race to the Top Fund?

department of education

UPDATE [1/27/11]: President Obama discussed the success of Race to the Top in his State of the Union address on January 25th. “Race to the Top in the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning…and Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that’s more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.” Since the program’s initiation, it has help 25,000 schools nationwide and 13.6 million students, according to White House statistics.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Race to the Top program. Which states have already applied for funding? Which states are not going to apply? Is it too political? Is it expecting too much of teachers? What exactly is it? The Race to the Top program is a $4 billion grant program created by the Department of Education and signed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

It was created to encourage states to assess and improve students’ education and performance. It is also intended to enable schools to hire and keep high-quality teachers. States must apply for the funding, and if they qualify, they could receive up to $700 million to improve their schools.

States are evaluated on several criteria. The biggest factor is if they have “a comprehensive and coherent reform agenda.” The quality of the teachers and having common standards are also factors used during the evaluation process.

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President Obama to End Summer Vacation

obama at schoolPresident Obama’s health care program may not be popular among certain Americans, but his desire to eliminate summer vacation will render him an easy target among all American school children.

Earlier this year we reported that President Obama proposed longer school days, and recent buzz indicates he’s still at it. The President wants American children to be better prepared to compete with children worldwide who spend on average 30 percent more time in school than American kids. Along with his Education Secretary Arne Duncan, President Obama believes that the current American academic calendar year is antiquated and was created when the country was primarily an agrarian culture; but since very few families toil in the fields all day, the Obama Administration is on a quest to develop the minds of American children by extending their time in school in order to keep them on par with the minds of millions of children around the globe. Read the rest of this entry »

FAFSA Form to Receive a Much Needed Makeover

2009 fafsaI had to fill out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, when I was a high school senior. It had 153 questions and took me several hours to complete. Many of my friends did not even bother filling it out just because it was too complex. It was a nightmare!

President Obama must also see the FAFSA as a monstrosity. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are recreating the form to make it more “user-friendly.” By doing so, they hope to make it easier for more students to apply for and receive financial aid, therefore enabling more students to attend college. Duncan said the goal is to increase college enrollment levels among lower income students. Read the rest of this entry »

Arne Duncan Proposes “New Era” in Science Education

(Science class via Curious Mind Store)

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Friday he wants to launch a “new era” of science education in the United States, one that encourages students to ask tough, challenging questions and brings more specially trained science and math teachers into the classroom.

Duncan told the National Science Teachers Association during a visit to New Orleans that President Barack Obama sees a need for inventors and engineers along with poets and scholars and “will not allow scientific research to be held hostage to a political agenda.”

“Whether it’s global warming, evolution or stem cell research, science will be honored. It will be respected and supported by this administration,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama Proposes Longer School Days, Extended School Year

president barack obamaFor this generation of students to remain competitive with their international peers as adults, they need to start spending more time in school. This week President Obama proposed that American school children extend their time in class, either by lengthening the school day, or spending less time on summer vacation.

“We can no longer afford an academic calendar designed when America was a nation of farmers who needed their children at home plowing the land at the end of each day,” Obama said. He continued to say “That calendar may have once made sense, but today, it puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea. That is no way to prepare them for a 21st century economy.” Read the rest of this entry »

New Stimulus Package Includes Money for Education

arne duncan

Arne Duncan, Obama's Education Secretary

In the recently-passed stimulus package, nearly $5 billion in discretionary funds was allocated toward education, helping Obama fulfill campaign promises to improve public schools and maybe even fulfill promises made by Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative, now seven years old. However, in the current economic crisis, Arne Duncan, Obama’s Education Secretary who will oversee how the money is spent, has admitted that some of the money will be used to prevent teacher layoffs rather than improving the education system. Much of the money could be used to cover operational expenses like payroll if the stimulus package does not improve the nation’s overall economic condition, which could dampen the potential benefits of receiving such a windfall. Still, Duncan told reporters that he sees this as “an absolute historic opportunity.” The intention is to use the money for “rewarding innovation,” as Obama puts it. Schools and universities who feel that they have an idea for an innovative way to improve education can apply for part of the federal funding in order to put their idea into practice.

These discretionary funds are part of a larger $100 billion allowance intended for education in the stimulus package. The other funds are to be used for updating aging schools, keeping class sizes to a reasonable number, funding early education programs and the like.


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