Published: Wednesday 5 December 2012

English teachers are fretting that a set of curriculum guidelines could reduce the teaching of fiction and poetry in the classroom. The Common Core State Standards, which will be implemented by more than 40 states by 2014. These new standards require that 50 percent of elementary school reading be nonfiction, climbing to 70 percent by 12th grade. Schools face problems ranging from overcrowded classrooms to crumbling buildings to malnourished students, but the idea of rigorous common standards in general has support from powerful interests including the Department of Education, the U.S. Army, and numerous reformists.

Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
“When the new system comes into effect, disabled borrowers will be able to submit award letters from Social Security as proof of their disability.”

This story was co-published with The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Education Department enacted a crucial reform on behalf of borrowers who become disabled, issuing new rules earlier this month that make it easier for these borrowers to get their federal student loans forgiven.

 

The rules, which the department has not publicly announced, for the first time recognize certain disability findings by the Social Security ...

Published: Thursday 25 October 2012
Though the focus was on the servicing of private student loans, it’s worth noting that many of the companies servicing loans in the private market are the same contractors handling federal loans.

The parallels between the mortgage market and the student loan industry have been frequently noted. Both involve big borrowing and have a history of lax underwriting by lenders. But the two are also strikingly similar in another way: When it comes to both mortgages and student debt, the servicers, or companies that handle loan payments, sometimes add roadblocks and give struggling borrowers the runaround.

 

That's the main takeaway from two  READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Wednesday 17 October 2012
“Take Parent Plus loans, a federal program that allows families to take out as much as they need, after other aid is applied, to pay for their children’s college costs.”

 

 

The financial aid award letters that colleges send to prospective students can be confusing: Many mix grants, scholarships and loans all under the heading of "Award," "Financial Assistance," or "Offered Financial Aid." Some schools also suggest loans in amounts that families can't afford.

Take Parent Plus loans, a federal program that allows families to take out as much as they need, after other aid is applied, to pay for their children's college costs. As we recently reported with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Plus loans are remarkably easy to get. With minimal underwriting and no assessment of whether parents can actually afford the loans, families can end up overburdened by debt.

Colleges often exacerbate things when their letters lay out, or "package in," large Plus loans to cover unmet need when student ...

Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012
“The government doesn’t check applicants’ income, employment status or other debt.”

You know that college students often graduate with massive amounts of debt. The lesser-told side of the story: overburdened parents. 

As ProPublica’s Marian Wang and The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Beckie Supiano and Andrea Fuller reported last week, many parents are now taking out what are known as Parent Plus loans – a type of federal loan – to plug the gap between student aid and the soaring cost of attending college. Last year the government disbursed $10.6 billion in Parent Plus loans to just under a million families. That’s $6.3 billion more than in 2000, adjusted for inflation, and to nearly twice as many borrowers.

 
READ FULL POST 1 COMMENTS
Published: Saturday 15 September 2012
State officials are allowing tax dollars to underwrite K-12 virtual disasters.

The sounds of September: school bells ringing, loose-leaf binders snapping open and shut, sneakers squeaking on gymnasium floors. Next to apple pie, what could possibly be more American than these familiar sounds and the local public schools where we hear them?

But times change. Blackboards and chalk no longer grace every classroom. Even pre-kindergarteners in the best-equipped schools gather around interactive smartboards and tap away on tablet computers. With the Internet, we can share lessons across borders.

In the new Information Age, are local public schools becoming obsolete? Do we need a new model for educating our young? Some sort of revolution in teaching and learning?

Questions like these demand thoughtful and patient democratic deliberation that we're not getting. In today's deeply unequal United States, we're rushing to an educational future that profits our awesomely affluent few — at the expense of the rest of us.

The most striking manifestation of this rush: the near quarter-million elementary and high school students enrolled full-time in taxpayer-funded "virtual schools" that ...

Published: Monday 10 September 2012
“In this new Information Age, are local public schools now somewhat obsolete? Do we need a new model for educating our young? Some sort of educational revolution in teaching and learning?”

 

The sounds of September: school bells ringing, looseleaf binders snapping open, sneakers squeaking on gymnasium floors. Next to apple pie, what could be more American than sounds like these — and the local public schools where we hear them?

But times change. Blackboards and chalk no longer grace every classroom. We have whiteboards and classroom computers. We have the Internet, the capacity to share lessons across borders.

In this new Information Age, are local public schools now somewhat obsolete? Do we need a new model for educating our young? Some sort of educational revolution in teaching and learning?

Questions like these demand thoughtful and patient democratic deliberation. But we’re not getting that deliberation. In today's deeply unequal America, we’re rushing instead toward a national educational future that profits the awesomely affluent few at the expense of America's many.

The most striking manifestation of this rush: the near quarter-million students enrolled full-time in the “virtual schools” that now operate — at taxpayer expense — in 27 states. These schools have no physical classrooms, no playgrounds, and no in-person teachers.

In these online “academies,” young students sit in front of home computers. Their parents serve as “learning coaches,” following instructions they read on screen. Remotely located teachers monitor and grade the students. One of these remote teachers at the elementary level can have as many as 60 students.

The results from ...

Published: Monday 13 August 2012
“With perverse irony, the corruption and incompetence of private industry has actually furthered the cause of privatization, as the collapse of the financial markets has deprived state and local governments of necessary public funding, leading to an even greater call for private development.”

 

A grand delusion has been planted in the minds of Americans, that privately run systems are more efficient and less costly than those in the public sector. Most of the evidence points the other way. Private initiatives generally produce mediocre or substandard results while experiencing the usual travails of unregulated capitalism -- higher prices, limited services, and lower wages for all but a few 'entrepreneurs.'

 

With perverse irony, the corruption and incompetence of private industry has actually furthered the cause of privatization, as the collapse of the financial markets has deprived state and local governments of necessary public funding, leading to an even greater call for private development.

 

As aptly expressed by a finance company chairman in 2008, "Desperate government is our best customer."

 

The following are a few consequences of this pro-privatization desperation:

 

 

1. We spend lifetimes developing community assets, then give them away to a corporation for lifetimes to come.

 

The infrastructure in our cities has been built up over many years with the sweat and planning of farsighted citizens. Yet the drop off in tax revenues has prompted careless decisions to balance budgets with big giveaways of public assets that should belong to our children and grandchildren.

 

In Chicago, the Skyway tollroad was leased to a private company for 99 years, and, in a deal growing in infamy, the management of parking meters was sold to a Morgan Stanley group for 75 years. The proceeds have largely been spent.

 

The parking meter selloff led to a massive rate increase, while hurting small businesses whose ...

Published: Thursday 9 August 2012
“A letter from Michael Higgins, the director of law and policy in the Education Department’s Office of School Choice, asked the school to make an immediate change to the policy no later than August 16th.”

Louisiana education officials are requiring the Delhi Charter School to drop the “Student Pregnancy Policy” that bans pregnant students from attending classes on its campus. After the American Civil Liberties Union called the discriminatory policy unconstitutional and pressured the school with potential legal action, the Louisiana Department of Education has agreed that Delhi Charter School is in violation of federal law.

READ FULL POST 2 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 20 July 2012
The new regulations came after an investigation last year by ProPublica found that the department’s dysfunctional system for evaluating disability was keeping many genuinely disabled borrowers buried in student debt.

 

The Education Department proposed new rules on Tuesday to revamp its troubled program for forgiving the federal student loans of borrowers who become disabled.

The new regulations came after an investigation last year by ProPublica found that the department's dysfunctional system for evaluating disability was keeping many genuinely disabled borrowers buried in student debt. Under federal law, borrowers who develop severe and lasting disabilities are entitled to get their loans forgiven.

The department's proposed reforms would streamline the application process and improve its communication with borrowers, eliminating many of the bureaucratic hurdles that frustrated applicants in the past.

But the department rejected a key reform that would have allowed many disabled borrowers to bypass its review altogether — tying the Education Department's standard for disability to that of the Social Security Administration, so that Social Security disability findings could be used to discharge loans.

"The most important reform is changing the definition [of disability], and without that it's impossible to have full reform," said Deanne Loonin, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center and the director of its Student Loan Borrower Assistance program. "Given that they chose not to address that, I think they made some other substantial improvements."

Perhaps the most significant change is that all borrowers will now submit a single discharge application to the Education Department. Previously, many applicants had to undergo initial reviews by loan holders and guarantors, ...

Published: Thursday 5 July 2012
Today, over 36 million people in the United States have student loans, while at least 1 out of 5 borrowers go into default.

Occupy Student Debt and Occupy Colleges have recently merged because of our overlapping principles. Collectively, our beliefs are simple: we are here to advocate on behalf of students and to educate as many people as possible on the growing crisis of student debt. We are fighting for quality, affordable and accessible education for all students who want to obtain a college degree. Beyond that, we don’t have any demands as we are forming a broad coalition. We will never see debt forgiven in one large bill and how can we even ask for free education when tuition prices keep rising - how about we start with a tuition hike freeze before we ask for all education to be free? These are just a few of the questions that our alliance hopes to address.

Today, over 36 million people in the United States have student loans, while at least 1 out of 5 borrowers go into default. As highlighted in a short video we released, those who default are slammed with exorbitant fees and penalties, exploding and usurious interest rates, destroyed credit ratings, possible suspension of driver’s licenses, possible suspension of professional licenses, and more. For these reasons we have opposed the decision which encourages borrowers to voluntarily default on their student loans. If a million people were to actually default, this would be a dream come true for companies such as Sallie Mae who happens to own many collection companies as well. Due to heavy lobbying from these student lenders, consumer rights have been stripped away and lenders make far more if the borrower defaults.

Given that, we believe it would be a great disservice if we were to tell all borrowers that it’s in their best interest to voluntarily default. And we’re not alone on this decision - during a weekly conference call involving over 50 colleges, Occupy Colleges put to a vote whether or not to support voluntary default. The result? A unanimous decision opposing voluntary ...

Published: Monday 18 June 2012
“The following is a conservative summary, liberally interpreted, of the five steps necessary to save education in the U.S.”

Milton Friedman would have been proud, if he hadn't been so confused. The push for privatized education is just what the good doctor of economics ordered, in the form of vouchers to allow parents to purchase the best school for their kids. But he also said "We have always been proud, and with good reason, of the widespread availability of schooling to all and the role that public schooling has played.."

 


The following is a conservative summary, liberally interpreted, of the five steps necessary to save education in the U.S.:
 


1. Think of Children as Our Most Important Product


Charter schools are criticized for a few reports that document their poor or mediocre performance in comparison with public schools. The often quoted Stanford University Credo study is one. Others come from the Department of Education, Johns Hopkins University, the RAND Corporation, and the National Charter School Research Project.


But there are numerous reputable research organizations who have not produced negative reports on charter schools.


Success stories like the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) and the SEED School show that the concept works if motivated students are chosen, if underperforming students are counseled toward alternative schools, and if expense is not spared to show the potential rewards for those innovating the process. Just as we test and re-test a product to ready it for market, so our children can benefit from industry-like quality control.


Most relevant for charter schools is the level of scalability. With economies of scale the true efficiency of the model touted by Mitt Romney can be realized. An example is the Louisiana Believes project, which will eventually be the country's most extensive voucher system. Although only 5,000 slots exist for about 400,000 eligible students, Louisiana intends to promote equal opportunity by ...

Published: Thursday 5 April 2012
“A leaner, smarter, more discerning intelligence community is what we need, not a bloated bureaucracy with ever bigger boxes -- and ever growing invasive powers.”

The events of 9/11 came as a tremendous shock to America. Equally shocking was the failure of the intelligence community to detect and prevent these attacks. It was a failure to "connect the dots," explained Richard Shelby, vice-chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in his investigative report issued in December 2002.

This failure to "connect the dots" was vividly explained by Malcolm Gladwell in an article in The New Yorker on March 10, 2003. For Gladwell, the lesson was that "intelligence is invariably ambiguous," and it was this ambiguity, not the limitations of our intelligence community, that was chiefly responsible for our ...

Published: Friday 30 March 2012
“The Department of Education is trying to balance its interest in helping struggling borrowers and stewarding taxpayer dollars.”

It was with some fanfare that the Obama administration announced last fall that it was ramping up a program to help students with federal loans reduce their monthly payments. Under the program, payments are adjusted based on how much students earn — what’s known as income-based repayment.

 

Yet, even while the administration has emphasized easing the burden for student borrowers, some contractors with the Department of Education appear to be exacerbating it.

 

Bloomberg reported this week that some federally contracted debt collection agencies have been playing hardball with borrowers who are behind, insisting on payments the borrowers can’t afford — even when federal student-loan rules allow more leniency.

 

The debt collectors have an incentive to be tough.  As Bloomberg explains:

 

Under Education Department contracts, collection companies “rehabilitate” a defaulted loan by getting a borrower to make nine payments in 10 months. If they succeed, they reap a jackpot: a commission equal to as much as 16 percent of the entire loan amount, or $3,200 on a $20,000 loan.

 

These companies receive that fee only if borrowers make a minimum payment of 0.75 percent to 1.25 percent of the loan each month, depending on its size. For example, a $20,000 loan would require payments of about $200 a month. If the payment falls below that figure, the collector receives an administrative fee of $150.

 

The Department of Education is trying to balance its interest in helping struggling borrowers and stewarding taxpayer dollars, department spokesman Justin Hamilton told Bloomberg.

 

Striking that balance, it seems, hasn’t been easy. Consumer advocates chafed when President Obama, as part of a deficit-reduction plan promoted last fall, recommended allowing debt collectors to robo-call the cell phones of borrowers who ...

Published: Friday 16 March 2012
“Another visible presence of Occupy will be evident this spring in Washington, DC when the National Occupation of Washington, DC begins on March 30th.”

Many in the corporate media like to think the Occupy is over, but those of us involved know better.  We do not rely on the corporate media to validate the work of Occupy, we see it in our communities.  And, we know to look to our own media for accurate information. The Occupied Wall Street Journal reports on the actions of the Occupy, it’s weekly “Reports from the Front Lines” is something many of us look forward to so we can see the movement taking action across the country.

Another visible presence of Occupy will be evident this spring in Washington, DC when the National Occupation of Washington, DC begins on March 30th.  The event, which will continue through the month of April, is being organized by members of dozens of occupies from around the country.  Twenty-five General Assemblies have passed statements of solidarity for this national occupy event.

NOW DC begins with a lot of activity.  On the first day, Occupy the EPA, will bring people together to protect the planet for a sustainable ...

Published: Wednesday 21 December 2011
California schools submitted extremely high numbers of student’s possessing guns into a state database for school discipline, but the Center has discovered great overestimation in the data.

Did schools in Sacramento County, California, really suspend 6,645 students last year for having a firearm at school? What about Alameda County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where raw numbers fed into a state database had 6,594 kids suspended for packing a gun?

Clearly, the answer is no. But we found these funny figures — and another huge error — while digging into raw numbers that California’s schools must submit to the state’s Department of Education after the close of each academic year. The department adds up the raw numbers of disciplinary actions and categorizes them by county, district, school and infraction and posts the information on its website for the public to see starting in September. 

The Center discovered the mistakes while sifting and adding up raw data as part of an investigation into extraordinarily high rates of student expulsions in Kern County in the Golden State’s Central Valley. We wanted to compare which of 34 separate education code violations led to kids getting suspended and expelled in each California county.

Alameda has problems with youth violence, to be sure. But it was beyond belief that one school, Arroyo High School, could have had 1,198 suspensions for violating a specific state education code prohibition on guns.

We had the same thought in regard to Sacramento’s numbers. The county’s Twin Rivers Unified district initially appeared to have reported a cluster of thousands of suspensions, specifically for guns, which made us wonder if the county's overall figures were inflated. One school, Foothill High, ...

Published: Tuesday 13 December 2011
Last Friday, Solar One and city officials announced the launch of a public school-wide competition that will award a total of $30,000 to schools that can achieve the most energy savings by next April.

At M.S. 88 in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, hundreds of school children – most of them from sixth to eighth grade – poured into the auditorium on Friday morning. Their lesson for the day: saving energy.

“Turning the lights off is an important step,” said Kristin Compton, a pony-tailed 11-year-old girl, who sounded nervous as she spoke on the stage before the crowd. Her science teacher and three fellow students stood beside her.

“I unplug the computers before leaving the classroom,” said Angel Aguilar. With sense of pride in his voice, the 13-year-old added that he does the same thing at home after using his video games.

And when the school principal on a microphone asked who cares about saving energy and helping the environment, almost all the kids raised their hands in unison. The noise escalated in the auditorium.

These kids were among those taking part in a pilot program that facilitates the greening of their schools and communities. There are 30 participating public schools, including M.S. 88, across the city.

Led by Solar One, a nonprofit environmental education organization, in partnership with the Department of Education, the program – the Green Design Lab – aims to help Mayor Michael Bloomberg achieve his goal of cutting energy consumption in city buildings by about a third by 2017.

New York City has more than 1 million students in its public school system, housed in 1,200 buildings. Schools account for a quarter of the city’s energy use.

Last Friday, Solar One and city officials announced the launch of a public school-wide competition that will award a total of $30,000 to schools that can achieve the most energy savings by next April.

“You’re not just helping your school, but also your neighborhood,” said New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, adding that it’s powerful when young people can tell their parents and older ...

Published: Monday 29 August 2011
“The department is shelving the most significant potential change—accepting Social Security decisions—before the process of writing the new rules even begins.”

After suffering from panic attacks and episodes of psychosis, Donita McDonald was diagnosed with a severe mental illness in 2009. She was unable to work or attend school, so the Social Security Administration declared the 21-year-old disabled. After the ruling, McDonald’s family turned to the Department of Education, appealing to also have her thousands of dollars in student loans forgiven. The department is supposed to forgive the loans of former students who develop severe and lasting disabilities, such as McDonald.

 

But rather than accept the Social Security Administration’s ruling, the Education Department has forced McDonald to go through a separate, arduous and largely duplicative review that has left her facing continuous collection efforts, even though she is unable to handle her own finances. 

McDonald’s experience is far from unique. As ProPublica,  READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Syndicate content
Make your voice heard.
Write for NationofChange
Transitioning from childhood to the college years, and then to full-fledged adulthood can put a lot...
How foolish Americans are, or rather, until a few years ago, we Americans. This writer himself got...
Too often we see headlines about goods being sold for ridiculous prices at auction. A dead person’s...
First the GOP Guv, Now Kansas’s Senator in Electoral Peril (September 11, 2014) The Newsletter once...
A logo resembling that of the Islamic State (IS) – locally known as Daash – is seen in an Islamic...