Tag Archives: Education Reform

Should We “Embrace The Common Core”?

That was the question being debated on the most recent episode on the Intelligence Squared podcast.

Moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan, the debate featured Carmel Marin (American Progress) and Michael Petrilli (Fordham Institute) who argued for the motion; and Carol Burris (South Side High School Principal) and Frederick Hess (American Enterprise Institute)who argued against the motion.

Here is description of the debate:

In K-12 education, there is nothing more controversial than the Common Core State Standards, national academic standards in English and math. Adopted by more than 40 states, they were developed, in part, to address concerns that American students were falling behind their foreign counterparts and graduating high school without the necessary skills for college and the workforce. But is this the reform we’ve been looking for? Has the federal government overreached and saddled our schools with standards that have been flawed from the start? Or will the Common Core raise the bar and improve the quality of our children’s education?

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“Kahn Academy: The Future of Education?”

Several months ago, 60 Minutes ran a story about the Kahn Acamedy,  a non-profit educational website.  I was so inspired by the story that I wrote a letter to the editor of the Scranton Times-Tribune (below).   

 I have two questions for NEPA parents. First, do you remember everything (or anything ) from high school algebra or biology? Second, do you have children asking you to help them with polynomials or the phases of mitosis?


It is not uncommon for parents, even parents who were once exceptional math and science students, to no longer have the foggiest notion of how cell division works or what a polynomial even is. However, there is an answer – the Khan Academy.


Recently, “60 Minutes” ran a segment on the Khan Academy and its revolutionary vision for education. The Khan Academy is a website run by Salman Khan, an American educator with multiple degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard.


While I suggest that all students, teachers and parents go online and watch the “60 Minutes” story for themselves, the gist of it is that Khan’s website has thousands of short (15-20 minute) and engaging math and science lessons (as well as SAT prep).


The most amazing part is that it is all free. No longer does getting a tutor depend on whether you can afford it. So, the next time you or your child or your student is struggling with math or science, Internet search for “Khan Academy.” It will blow your mind or, at least, greatly expand it.

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June 2, 2013 · 8:55 pm

MOOCs: The Future of Higher Education?

Top universities are increasingly offering MOOCs, or massive open online courses.  

Don’t ever email the professor. Never friend the teacher on Facebook. Those are some of the rules A.J. Jacobs learned when he joined the ranks of millions enrolled in massive open online courses, MOOCs. Harvard, MIT and Stanford are among universities offering virtual classes free of charge


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April 28, 2013 · 10:18 am

Teaching Grit: How “Non-Cognitive Skills” Lead to Success

Last year, Ira Glass devoted an episode of This American Life to interviewing Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed.  

They talk about the focus on cognitive abilities, conventional “book smarts.” They discuss the current emphasis on these kinds of skills in American education, and the emphasis standardized testing, and then turn our attention to a growing body of research that suggests we may be on the verge of a new approach to some of the biggest challenges facing American schools today. Paul Tough discusses how “non-cognitive skills” — qualities like tenacity, resilience, impulse control — are being viewed as increasingly vital in education, and Ira speaks with economist James Heckman, who’s been at the center of this research and this shift.

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April 20, 2013 · 9:38 am

Higher Education, Lower Expectations

In a troubling op-ed, Fareed Zakaria discusses how colleges are no longer acting as a conduit for social mobility. Rather than accepting the best and the brightest, colleges rely on middling upper-middle class students who are able to pay full tuition and athletes who are able to bring revenues to the universities for their performances on the field. As a result, fewer qualified poor and disadvantaged students are populating that halls of higher education.

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April 10, 2013 · 9:46 am

Oklahoma’s Ploy to Pass Pre-K

This episode of This American Life discusses how one Oklahoma legislator used political chicanery to pass expanded access to preschool. (21 minutes)

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March 10, 2013 · 8:21 pm

Sen. Isakson (R-GA) Speaks Favorably Of Universal Preschool

Wonky MSNBC Host Chris Hayes interviews Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia, on his show Up w/ Chris Hayes.  Isakson calls universal pre-K “a great idea,” while questioning how such a program would be funded.


The video runs about five and a half minutes.

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March 2, 2013 · 10:09 am