Education

A seven-member board has been appointed to oversee eight middle schools in Springfield that are among the lowest performing schools in Massachusetts.

The board will report to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Springfield Superintendent of Schools.  Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city and the state struck a deal on control of the 8 schools in an effort to quickly improve student achievement.

The main federal education law may finally get its long-overdue makeover in Congress this year, and we're going to be hearing and reading a lot about it.

Formally, it's the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA. The last time it got a major overhaul was in 2001, with President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. But nothing much has been done with the law since 2007.

If Congress does finally get to it this year, What can we expect?

Daniel Case / Creative Commons

Starting next fall, the Waterbury school district will recognize two Muslim holidays.

Often, when Eid Al-Fitr or Eid Al-Adha falls on a school day in the United States, Muslim families have to make a choice. "A lot of kids have to make the choice between religion and going to school on that day," said Amr Abu-al-rub, an imam at the United Muslim Mosque in Waterbury. "It's a tough choice to make, especially for kids."

It's a choice made tougher if a field trip, classroom party, or major test is scheduled on the holiday.

Larochefoucauld / Creative Commons

The Board of Regents for Higher Education has been mired in problems ever since it was set up four years ago to oversee many of the state's colleges. There have been secret raises, resignations with huge severance packages, and even a promotion given to an employee while he was in jail.

State Representative Gail Lavielle, a Republican representing Norwalk, Wilton, and Westport, is co-sponsoring a bill that seeks to dissolve the board completely.

It's a bold statement that she hopes will draw attention to the need for better oversight, even if it doesn't go anywhere. 

For the first time, Harvard University is banning sexual relationships between faculty and undergraduates, strengthening language in its policies on sexual misconduct. The change comes as the school examines its rules and undergoes a federal review.

Last year, Harvard was among dozens of schools the Department of Education said it's investigating for how they handle sexual abuse allegations.

Alberto Cairo / ProPublica

Imagine walking into your young child's classroom and seeing him on the floor, his hands behind his back, as if he was being arrested. This is what happened to Lisbeth Ehrlich in Darien. 

"It's profoundly disturbing,” Ehrlich said. “It is surreal; it's something you cannot believe you're seeing."

In Ehrlich's case, she said it was done because her son "didn't want to sit through circle time." A new report from the Office of the Child Advocate shows that cases like Ehrlich's are not unusual, and that some kids have been restrained or secluded for minor behavior problems such as throwing puzzle pieces on the floor or swinging a coat around.

The State Department of Education released data last year showing that the number of restraints and seclusions increased by over 2,000 incidents compared to the year before.

ConnSCU

Ten Connecticut State University system professors have withdrawn their support for Board of Regents President Gregory Gray, citing course content developed by for-profit companies.

The Hartford Courant reports that the professors wrote Monday to the legislature's Higher Education Committee. They cited "disturbing reports" that a plan touted by Gray promotes a "model of `blended learning" in which course content would be developed by outside for-profit companies, rather than by faculty.

Chion Wolf WNPR

Alcoholism and sexual assaults on college campuses continue to make headlines across the country, but for one college president, part of the solution could involve simply increasing diversity among the student body.

Joanne Berger-Sweeney, president of Trinity College in Hartford, told WNPR’s Where We Live that by actively creating an environment that reflects the diversity of the state’s capital, students would be exposed to different values that might alleviate some of the social and cultural pressures that lead to alcohol and drug abuse, as well as sexual misconduct.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The college scene in Hartford is really starting to bustle with institutions relocating campuses to the city, but the steady presence is Trinity College. Last year, Joanne Berger-Sweeney was sworn in as the 22nd President and addressed the changes that have happened in Hartford since the institution got its start nearly 200 years ago. "Trinity College has had to maintain a learning network in the varied and changing Hartford environment," said Berger-Sweeney in her inaugural address.

On Where We Live, we spend an hour with President Berger-Sweeney to talk about her school’s role in revitalizing the capital city, while educating students from all over the country. We explore higher education during the hour and take your questions.

jackof/iStock / Thinkstock

The Waterbury School board will consider whether to recognize two Muslim holidays on the school calendar on Thursday night. 

According to The Republican-American, a petition with nearly 300 signatures is seeking recognition of the holidays Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha. The petition asks that the days be recognized on the school calendar and that teachers and staff avoid scheduling tests, field trips and other events on those days.

Mathleu Thouvenin / Creative Commons

As top-tier universities in the United States have worked to overcome reputations for serving only the children of the American elite, there is now a push to do the same amongst international applicants looking to study in the U.S.  

BeyondDifferences.org

Laura Talmus experienced that most unthinkable of events for a parent. Her daughter, Lili, died in her sleep after only 15 years of life. Her death was due to complications with a cranial facial syndrome, but her mother, Laura, said that while Lili was alive, she also suffered from an often-unnoticed affliction: social isolation.

“When Lili passed away, it was a group of her peers who came up to me and said that they had really not realized that by leaving Lili out from a lot of the social structure of middle school, but particularly at lunch, they felt terrible and they wanted to know what they could do,” Talmus said.

So Talmus and Lili's classmates got together and went to other middle schools to see if students noticed anyone eating alone or without friends. The response, she said, was overwhelming.

Kari Njiiri / NEPR

The head of the Springfield Catholic Diocese says a plan addressing the future of the tornado-damaged Cathedral High School has been worked out. But Bishop Mitchell Rozanski is refusing to say what that is…for now.

Rozanski says a workshop this past weekend involving parents, alumni, and faculty produced a plan he calls both optimistic and realistic. But the bishop says he now needs do his homework and due diligence, and won’t announce his decision until mid-February.

Harriet Jones / WNPR

Approaches to getting information and making decisions for Connecticut school closings vary widely among the state's towns. For some school districts, it’s almost like a science. 

Take Torrington, for example. The district pays about $3,000 a year to a weather alert service in Burlington for daily weather updates and for consulting services. This helps officials determine if and when to close school due to bad weather.

Puzzles: The Joy of Being Perplexed

Jan 27, 2015
Lablanco / Flickr Creative Commons

People have been puzzled since the beginning. And while that might sound like a problem, it may in fact be our preferred state of being. Since the first fires needed to be lit with tinder too damp to kindle, we've been problem solving. When one problem was solved, another was found. And when seemingly, we could no longer find enough problems to satiate our appetites, we created puzzles: problems in a box; food for our minds.

Christine / Creative Commons

The University of Connecticut announced plans to close on Monday afternoon in advance of the winter storm.

chiesADIbeinasco / Creative Commons

WNPR has an experimental radio project and we want you to get involved. The idea is simple: we provide a theme; you call our hotline and tell a story.

The theme: What's so hard about being a teen?

On Friday, January 30, WNPR's Where We Live will talk about the challenges of being a teenager.

After a long stretch as the law of the land, annual standardized tests are being put to, well, the test.

This week, the Senate education committee held a hearing on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law and, specifically, on testing. The committee's chairman, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has released a draft bill offering a lot more leeway to states in designing their own assessment systems.

On the education front, President Obama's State of the Union address is likely to focus on three big proposals:

First, the president wants to talk about the idea he floated last week of making community college tuition-free. This is new.

The plan would benefit about 9 million full- and part-time students and would cost the federal government about $60 billion over 10 years. According to the administration's numbers, that would account for three-fourths of the total cost. States and community colleges would come up with the rest.

Discrimination claims from people across Connecticut led the U.S. Attorney’s Office to announce that it would form a working group to investigate possible civil rights violations by public and private schools and childcare programs.

Wikimedia Commons

A Catholic school in Meriden that's over a century old will close at the end of the year as enrollment, finances, and demographics continue to change the state of parochial schools in the Nutmeg State. 

David DesRoches

Nate Quesnel, the superintendent of schools in East Hartford, told a story about a student sitting in the back of the classroom, a wool cap pulled over his eyebrows, his faced glued to a cell phone, his fingers attacking the screen in a gaming frenzy.

"Right away, I recoiled inside," Quesnel said. "I felt embarrassed." He was embarrassed because at the time, an executive from Xerox was presenting the students with information on job skills, including how to act during an interview.

The charter school movement is built on the premise that increased competition among schools will sort the wheat from the chaff.

It seems self-evident that parents, empowered by choice, will vote with their feet for academically stronger schools. As the argument goes, the overall effect should be to improve equity as well: Lower-income parents won't have to send their kids to an under-resourced and underperforming school just because it is the closest one to them geographically.

UMass Amherst will replace its on-campus textbook store later this year with a virtual store operated by Amazon.

  Under a five-year contract Amazon will provide online textbook ordering through the UMass Amherst website, operate an on-campus pick up location and provide free delivery to off campus addresses in Amherst and five surrounding communities.  UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said the change is being made to save students money.

  "Up to about $380 annually per student based on national estimates of what students pay for books," said Blaguszewski.

Inside Cyber Security: Experts Talk Tech

Jan 13, 2015
Christian Schauer / Flickr Creative Commons

Threats against cyber security seem to be everywhere these days. From viruses slowing down your computer or smartphone, to major attacks on international companies. It’s hard to go a day without hearing about some new and increasingly sophisticated cyber attack. Incidents at Target, Home Depot, and most recently Sony Pictures all illustrate the problems of living in a world more digitally connected than ever.  

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the center of a disputed Rolling Stone account of an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia has been reinstated, according to a statement released on the school's website Monday.

Meet The Classroom Of The Future

Jan 12, 2015

The classroom of the future probably won't be led by a robot with arms and legs, but it may be guided by a digital brain.

It may look like this: one room, about the size of a basketball court; more than 100 students, all plugged into a laptop; and 15 teachers and teaching assistants.

This isn't just the future, it's the sixth grade math class at David Boody Jr. High School in Brooklyn, near Coney Island. Beneath all the human buzz, something other than humans is running the show: algorithms.

Connecticut Science Center

Will a hands-on energy efficiency exhibit aimed at children help them to think about their carbon footprint? 

An announcement about the long-term fate of the historic Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts is now expected by mid-February.  Advocates of rebuilding the school that was wrecked in the 2011 tornado are encouraged by word the school will operate for one more year, at least, at its temporary campus. 

       Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski will begin a series of meetings on January 24th in what will amount to the final due diligence on whether to rebuild the Catholic high school with a 130-year- history in Springfield. 

Driven by higher tuition fees and tighter state funds, America's public colleges now get more money from their students than from all state sources. That's according to a report by the Government Accountability Office, which says tuition revenue reached 25 percent of the colleges' total in 2012.

The numbers are stark, with the GAO saying that from fiscal years 2003-2012, "state funding decreased by 12 percent overall while median tuition rose 55 percent across all public colleges."

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