Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 4:05 pm
It’s a July morning at 6:45 a.m. and the temperature is starting to climb across the city. Most schoolchildren would expect to have at least a few more weeks of summer. But Quincy Lindsey, a fifth grader at New Orleans’ ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy, is trying to wake up for his first day of school.
The nation's first black public high school, Paul Laurence Dunbar High, opened its doors in Washington, D.C., in 1870. But more than 140 years later, Dunbar — like many urban schools — has fallen on hard times. The crumbling, brutalist-style building is often described as a prison, and graduation rates hover around 60 percent.
But it wasn't always that way. Once upon a time, the yearbook read like a Who's Who of black America.
Almost all the states and Washington, D.C., are grappling with a big challenge as the new school year nears: getting teachers up to speed on the Common Core, a sweeping set of new education standards for English language arts and math.
The Common Core will soon apply to most of America's students from kindergarten through high school. The policymakers behind the Core know that it could fail if they don't help teachers make the change. So this summer, the state of Maryland has been hosting what it calls "academies" to do just that.
Louisiana lawmakers went out of their way to add a $46 million line item to the state budget to allow more students from under-performing public schools go to private school through the voucher program championed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Both Wisconsin and Ohio have just pushed through major expansions of their voucher programs too. And both states -- like Louisiana -- are headed by Republican governors.
Sarah Carr, a writer for the Hechinger Report, says these governors are being strategic in their support of vouchers.
"It’s a way for them to make a name for themselves pursuing an education agenda that’s typically been embraced by conservatives and trying even to some extent to one-up each other in creating a bigger and bolder voucher program."
Common Core — the new set of national education standards in math and English language arts — will take effect in most states next year. This move toward a single set of standards has been embraced by a bipartisan crowd of politicians and educators largely because of what the Common Core standards are replacing: a mess.
In years past, the education landscape was a discord of state standards. A fourth grader in Arkansas could have appeared proficient in reading by his state's standards — but, by the standards of another state, say Massachusetts, not even close.
The interest rate on government-backed student loans is going to jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent Monday.
Republicans, Democrats and the Obama administration could not agree on a plan to keep it from happening. Lawmakers say a deal is still possible after the July 4 recess. But if they don't agree on a plan soon, 7 million students expected to take out new Stafford loans could be stuck with a much bigger bill when they start paying the money back.
It has been one of the more heated debates in Washington this year.
Out-of-school suspensions are on the rise across the country, a troubling statistic when you consider being suspended just once ups a student's chances of dropping out entirely. That's why many districts are hoping to keep kids in school by trying an alternative to suspension.