Editor's note: We're listening to you. Every day, we spot thought-provoking comments from readers. Here's some comments we noticed today.
In a tight economy, the sight of striking teachers in Chicago has many readers seeing red. On CNN iReport, we're seeing photos from the picket lines. Should teachers be asking for more when people have less? Sam Chaltain writes in an education opinion piece that the issues in this situation apply well beyond the heartland.
Some readers who posted comments wondered if teachers see themselves as above the standards of other professions, while others wondered how performance should be measured.
Chris: " 'Teachers want job security.' – That says it all. Why should teachers get job security while the rest of the working world has to *perform* to achieve job security? And sometimes performance isnt even enough... Sometimes the way a system works is just ineffective, and it takes a dislocation of employees onb the journey to make it right, regardless of how effective those employees are individually. I've seen this happen in the business world- fantastically effective colleagues have lost their positions, and it's broken my heart to watch it happen- but then I've watched the business gets stronger and more effective as a result. 'Job security' is a figment of the past. Get over it, and work to make yourself relevent assuming you lose your job tomorrow."
Shelly: "No one debates accountability and evaluation. It is the terms of what does it mean to be an effective teacher? If we hold teachers accountable to student performance on a standardized assessment given on one day, shouldn't we also hold doctors accountable to patient wellness rate on a checkup day, regardless of if the patient took the advice to lose weight or exercise or take their medications? Shouldn't we blame farmers' poor yields in a drought on the farmers' incompetence? People hate teachers lately. If teaching is such a cake-walk job, please go to college and earn your degree so you can join in!"
daveyoung: "When you work for the taxpayers, you have no right to unionize. End of story."
This commenter applauded the efforts of teachers. CNN iReport is asking educators to share why they teach.
aflarend: "Great job, Chicago Teachers! You are standing up for what is right in the classroom. You know that tests are narrowing the curriculum and that they only measure a small part of what a child learns academically in school. As a graduate of a Chicago Public school in the 1980s and one on the far South Side, I know first hand the challenges that you face. And I know your successes since I earned advanced degrees in engineering, thanks in part to several inspiring teachers. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. And thank you for standing up for students and teachers."
Some said the schools are poorly managed, and parents need to step up and do their jobs.
Barbra & Jack Donachy: "By and large, Chicago's public schools have been a mess for a very long time as one reform after another has ultimately gone nowhere. Like his friend President Obama, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems to be taking a tack that puts too much emphasis on standardized test scores and places too much blame on teachers for the failure many of Chicago's schools. It is frustrating that, like Mr. Obama, the mayor has given up attempts to get to the root of the problems in our education system (horrible leadership from school and district administrators and the school boards that supposedly oversee that leadership) and is instead desperately hacking at the leaves around the fringes of meaningful school reform while pointing a wrongly accusatorial finger at teachers. No company, no team, no military unit, no group of teachers can rise above the level of their leadership for any length of time, and until we make positive changes in terms of getting better superintendents, better principals, and better school boards our public schools will continue to founder.
J: " 'The real problem' are parents, not district administrators, not school boards, and not teachers, when it comes to test scores. Parents are a child's real teacher and most are no where involved in their children's academic life. Stop making excuses that other people are responsible for educating our children. PARENTS PARENTS PARENTS. I am so tired of people making excuses on this subject – get involved with your children's education and recognize that you, the parent, are ultimately responsible and you only have yourself to blame."
The main story about the strike got thousands of comments from readers angry about the news. FULL POST
Chicago public school teachers began manning picket lines instead of classrooms Monday, launching the first teacher strike in the city in 25 years.
The strike, announced Sunday night, left about 350,000 students without schools to attend and parents scrambling to find alternatives. The union that represents nearly 30,000 teachers and support staff in the nation's third-largest school district called the strike after negotiators failed to reach a contract agreement with school administrators despite 10 months of negotiations.
Below, we break down the key issues that are keeping the teachers out of the classroom, what the teachers are asking for and what the schools are willing to offer.
Compensation and health care benefits
One of the key issues is salaries and benefits for teachers and their families.
What the teachers want: to maintain their existing health benefits, as well as salary increases.
"Recognizing the Board’s fiscal woes, we are not far apart on compensation," the Chicago Teachers Union said in a news release. "However, we are apart on benefits."
What the Chicago Board of Education is offering: a deal that would increase salaries 16% over four years. The average teacher salary in Chicago was $74,839 for the 2011-12 school year, according to the district. The total salary increase would equal $380 million over four years. That includes "modified step increases that both reward experience and provides better incentives for mid-career teachers to help keep them serving in the Chicago Public School system," according to a news release from the school system.
"The Board is calling for a modification to the health care plan funding that will freeze all employee health care contributions for single and couple plans with a small increase in family contributions of no more than $20 a pay period in addition to a small increase in emergency room co-pays," the school system says. "67% of all CTU members will not see a change to their healthcare."
Harvard University is investigating allegations that almost half the students in an undergraduate class last spring may have plagiarized or "inappropriately collaborated" on their final exams, the school announced Thursday.
Following an initial investigation, Harvard's administrative board, which enforces academic regulations, undertook "a comprehensive review of the more than 250 take-home final exams" submitted at the end of a course, the school said in a statement.
The Harvard Crimson, the school's flagship student-run newspaper, identified the class in which the cheating allegedly occurred as Government 1310: Introduction to Congress.
A document on the website of Harvard's registrar's office says the class had 279 students.
"We take academic integrity very seriously because it goes to the heart of our educational mission," said Michael D. Smith, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, in a written statement.
In 1986, Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old freshman at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, was found dead in her third-floor dorm room. She had been sodomized, tortured, and then strangled with the uncoiled metal of a toy resembling a Slinky, according to media reports.
Clery's parents had sent her to Lehigh because they thought she'd be safe. She'd also been accepted at Tulane University in New Orleans, but after learning a student there had been murdered off campus, the couple began looking for a safer place to send their daughter for college.
It was only after Clery's murder that her parents learned Lehigh had seen 38 violent offenses - rape, robbery and assault among them - in a three-year period, according to a 1990 feature in People magazine.
Constance and Howard Clery later settled with the university for an undisclosed amount and began working to ensure campus crime was a more transparent issue in the future. They opened the Clery Center for Security on Campus and pushed for the 1990 legislation requiring public disclosure of crimes on American campuses.
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, or Clery Act, is now at the center of the investigation into what Penn State University officials did or didn't do after hearing allegations that assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was molesting boys.
In a scathing internal review that blasts the upper echelons of the school's administration, investigators cited several failures to disclose information to police by a university leadership that the report said was more concerned about bad publicity than the sex-crime victims who had been molested on campus.
The review also reported "a lack of awareness of child abuse issues, the Clery Act, and whistle-blower policies and protections."
The president of Florida A&M University announced his resignation Wednesday, more than seven months after the drum major for the university band died following a hazing incident.
James H. Ammons said in a statement he is leaving the post he has held for five years, effective this fall.
"After considerable thought, introspection and conversations with my family, I have decided to resign from my position as president in order to initiate my retirement on October 11, 2012," he wrote in a letter to the chairman of the school's board of trustees.
Ammons said he would remain as a tenured professor on the faculty.
The resignation comes after the November 19 death of Robert Champion, 26. Champion died within an hour of being badly beaten during a hazing incident on a band bus following a football game in Orlando, Florida. The ritual, called "Crossing Bus C," is an initiation process in which pledges attempt to run down the center aisle while being assaulted by senior members, according to some university band members.FULL STORY
Dawn Loggins - whose inspirational story of going from homeless to Harvard inspired millions - walked across the stage late Thursday at North Carolina's Burns High School to loud cheers.
When her name, Ashley Dawn Loggins, was intoned, it brought down the house. Everyone in the auditorium erupted with enthusiastic yells and whistles. Most rose in a standing ovation to honor the first person from Lawndale, North Carolina, to ever be accepted to Harvard.
A CNN story on Dawn earlier in the day caught like wildfire through social media, with nearly 60,000 people sharing her story on Facebook. Thousands more tweeted Dawn's tale.
Dawn Loggins never gave up on her dreams, even when she was homeless. She heads to her dream school, Harvard, this fall.
CNN's Randi Kay talks to rising freshman Dawn Loggins about graduatnig and realizing her goal of attending Harvard.
As Dawn took in the crowd's applause Thursday, she beamed with pride and accepted the leather-bound folder that housed the diploma she’s worked so hard to get. She then broke down in tears.
“All I could hear were their screams, I couldn’t hear myself think," she said later. "That’s when I got overwhelmed and really emotional. I felt like all my hard work had finally been recognized.”
After shaking hands with school administrators, she went back to her peers, lost in a sea of light blue caps. Outside, she was mobbed by well-wishers.
A man whose granddaughter was in Dawn’s fourth-period class said, “I don’t know what you’re doing honey, but keep doing it because it’s working. And you’re gonna get where you wanna go.”
Dawn had been abandoned by her drug-abusing parents last summer and left to fend for herself her senior year. She worked as a school janitor to make ends meet, and school staff pitched in to help.
“It feels amazing to finally be done and to have worked so hard for this and to finally have achieved it," she said, crying.
Dawn’s family made the ceremony. Her mother, stepfather, grandmother, half-sisters and cousins attended. But it was her brother, Shane, she wanted to see most. He'd helped her throughout her life. “Love ya,” he told her Thursday evening.
Her custodial supervisor, Julie Barrett, said simply: “Congratulations baby! I am so proud of you."
Dawn, 18, plans to take a week off of work. But she’ll be back at Burns High in a week to once again take up her mop and broom as she works through the summer to help pay for college. While Harvard is paying for tuition, room and board, she still has to pay for textbooks, school materials and other living expenses.
She thanked everyone who has reached out to help with donations. She will use the money to set up her nonprofit organization, named Uplift. “There are other students whose situations are worse than mine, and their futures are less certain,” she said. “The only way to get out of poverty is through education.”
For teens in similar situations as hers, Dawn encourages hard work and communication. “I encourage people in poor situations to talk to someone at school, to talk to a guidance counselor, or talk to an administrator, a teacher. Because the school system can help,” she said.
Any contributions can be sent to: Burns High School/Dawn Loggins Fund, 307 E. Stagecoach Trail, Lawndale, NC 28090.
Dawn's story echoes that of another: In 2007, The Foundation for a Better Life, a Colorado-based group that promotes values through advertisements, started a nationwide "Ambition" billboard campaign.
"From homeless to Harvard. AMBITION. Pass it on," the billboard said.
It featured a photograph of Liz Murray, a once-homeless girl from the Bronx who graduated from Harvard and went on to become an author. Her story was captured in a 2003 Lifetime movie.
The Foundation for a Better Life says Liz's story was to show people that "dedication pays off - and, if there's something that you want in life, you can better yourself and just work for it."
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
Dawn Loggins, a student at Burns High School in Lawndale, North Carolina, knows what it's like to live without electricity or running water. But she's working hard as a janitor at the school and has been accepted into Harvard's class of 2016. CNN's profile garnered a very interesting conversation about working your way up in life, and the factors that contribute to success. That is, the oft-referenced American dream.
Several readers talked about the movie potential for this story, a la "Good Will Hunting," and even getting Matt Damon to play the role of Loggins' brother.
ForGoodOfAll: "Wow, what a heartwarming story. It just goes to show that there are plenty of kind-hearted and caring people in this country. I am sure that a movie will be made about this girl's life, too. Congratulations and best wishes, Dawn!"
t0ofly2: "This is like Good Will Hunting."
kit8: "There is a lot of Goodwill in this story and Hunting for (Matt) Damon to play her brother might be a good idea. But something tells me he is to big a star and would be to old."
Robert Buchler: "I hope they find a way to give this bright, brave, lovely young woman a full scholarship. She is an inspiration. Why can't they make a reality show about her?"
One of the biggest conversations that took place was about the perspective of the country as a land of opportunity. Some drew political parallels.
Dionysus86: "Beautiful story. It should be noted that once again the American dream is achieved through a combination of hard work and a good support system. Our political arena has become so polarized to the extremes that we tend to think that either people should be given everything or that they should brave everything alone. We forget that there is a middle ground where people can receive a helping hand, capitalize on the opportunity through dedicated effort, and succeed."
Laughing__Man: "That was reasonable, bipartisan and probably accurate. We'll never hear anything like that from the halls of Congress."
The idea of a community helping someone succeed, and not the government, was encouraging for many. FULL POST
Snigdha Nandipati, 14, of California won the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday night by properly spelling guetapens, which means an ambush snare or trap.
Snigdha was the only contestant left standing after Stuti Mishra misspelled "schwarmerei" incorrectly in Round 12. When Snigdha correctly spelled the final word, the bee was hers.FULL STORY
Police in north Georgia say they’re trying to find a man who witnesses say pointed a rifle at a moving school bus this week and apparently left a note at the scene containing school bus numbers.
The incident in Hampton has prompted Clayton County police to start escorting school buses through the Greystone subdivision, and federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have joined the investigation.
A resident of the subdivision told police that a man was crouched in a backyard of a home in Hampton - about 25 miles southeast of Atlanta - on Monday morning and pointed a rifle at a moving bus.
“About the time the school bus pulled up to pick up two kids … the guy started aiming the gun," the resident, David Dillard, told CNN affiliate WSB.
Dillard said he yelled at the man, and the man dropped the rifle and ran away. Dillard said his nephew, who was nearby, ran after him.
The gunman fired a pistol at the nephew - hitting no one - before escaping on foot, Clayton County police Lt. Chris Windley said, citing witness accounts.
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
Anya Kamanetz of Fast Company magazine wrote about President Obama's tour of college campuses this week, addressing the interest rate on student loans that is set to double on July 1. Kamanetz argues that bankruptcy relief also ought to be available. We received comments from readers who say we simply cannot afford to let people out of these debts when others have paid in the past. But, others argue, the world is a different place now.
Many of our readers said people who took out loans can't just expect to erase that debt.
onepercenter: "This is absurd. A few things to consider:
1. The kids that all buy into the hope and change, crush the 1%, save the world, anti-cronyism, anti-lobbying, anti-election buying stuff are tying their vote for Obama to a reduction in their own personal debt. I can smell the hypocrisy from here.
"2. You borrowed the money in good faith. Pay it back or suffer the consequences. Many before you were in the same situation and found a way to make it work.
"3. If you can't find a job because you spent eight years chasing a degree in Iranian Gender Studies, the only person to blame is yourself. We should not be on the hook for your bad decisions.
"It is time to grow up kids. Welcome to the cruel, harsh world. If you think student loan debt is bad, just wait until you start paying taxes. ..."
At the same time, one reader opined, there are increased costs to be aware of.
Gary Murchake: "Why does everyone talk about loans or loan interest rates? This is not the problem. I went to college 1987 to 1992. I was in-state at a state university and my full-time schedule cost $995 a semester, books were between $175 and $300 depending on classes I took. Now where exactly can you go to college for that now? The costs are crazy and no one yet has explained to me where the excess costs went to."
OhioLibraria: "You are 100% correct. I graduated with my master's two years ago. I was a stay-at-home mom while attending school, but commuted from Ohio to Michigan, and therefore, paid out-of-state tuition ($16,000 per semester). I really had no choice but to take out private loans. I am one of the fortunate graduates who received a job in my field right away, but the loans are killing me. I make a decent living, but more than half my paycheck goes to student loans and will continue to do so for a very long time."
Life is life, says this reader. FULL POST
A Washington school district is hailing a middle-school student as a hero after he guided a school bus to a stop when the driver slumped in his seat.
The bus was taking a number of students to Surprise Lake Middle School in Milton, Washington, when the driver became incapacitated Monday morning, falling back into his seat and letting go of the wheel, surveillance video released by the school district shows.
The bus kept going, guided by no one for seconds, the video shows. Then seventh-grader Jeremy Wuitschick, two seats to the back and right of the driver, jumped into action.
“I was just sitting there when the bus driver, he looked funny. His eyes were bulging and he was sitting back, and his hands were kind of flapping around uselessly,” Jeremy told CNN affiliate KOMO. “… I knew something was wrong.”
[Updated at 2:27 p.m. ET] Sweeping new security measures to prevent cheating on the SAT and ACT college entrance exams were announced Tuesday.
Beginning with exams taken in September, students will have to submit a photo of themselves when they apply for a test. That photo will be printed on the student's test admission ticket and the roster provided to proctors at testing sites. Testing staff will compare the submitted photo to a photo ID and to the student in person at the testing site.
Photo checks will take place when the student arrives at the testing site, during breaks and when tests are handed in.
Student photos will also remain in the testing databases and be checked again by high school counselors and college admission officials once scores are calculated and submitted.
The new rules were announced at news conference in Nassau County, New York, where 20 people were arrested last fall in a SAT/ACT cheating scandal.
A school bus wreck killed a young child and the driver Monday in Indianapolis, officials said. Readers commenting on the story debated whether additional safety measures are required.
We saw differing views on the need for safety belts on buses. One commenter who said she is a bus driver was in support of them.
SitSandraSit: "As a driver, I see kids jumping around on school buses all the time as it is moving. At times I wish I could do something about it, but there isn't much I can do. It's can be difficult to control just one child, let alone 20. I think there should be cameras and restrictions like seat belts. Maybe a computer on the bus to indicate all kids are strapped in."
However, this reader wasn't so sure.
Planethell12: "Even when I was riding a school bus back in the late '80s and early '90s, our bus had seat belts, and we were forced to wear them when the bus driver would walk up and down the aisle before we departed to make sure of this. However the moment he sat down was the moment we took ours off. One adult for 50 or so kids (especially when the adult is supposed to be driving and not watching the kids) does not cut it."
One reader said children's small size presents special challenges. FULL POST
Education officials in a northern China city have banned schools from offering palm-reading tests that were purported to predict kids’ intelligence and potential, state-run news agency Xinhua reported Tuesday.
The ban in Taiyuan comes after a previous Xinhau report that privately run kindergartens in that city’s province, Shanxi, were charging parents about $190 (1,200 yuan) for the opportunity to have their kids' palms read.
The company that designed the test, Shanxi Daomeng Culture Communication Co., claimed the palm reading could help determine a child’s innate intelligence and identify kids’ aptitudes in subjects such as math and music, and was applicable to children older than 3 months of age, according to Xinhua.
But Taiyuan education officials have “issued a circular to criticize the three kindergartens” that offered the tests, and have launched an investigation into whether the schools were ripped off by the company, the city’s education bureau chief, Ma Zhaoxing, told Xinhua.
An admissions officer at Claremont McKenna College in California has resigned after the school's president revealed that the officer had inflated college entrance examination scores for incoming freshmen since 2005.
"As an institution of higher education with a deep and consistent commitment to the integrity of all our academic activities, and particularly our reporting of institutional data, we take this situation very seriously," college President Pamela B. Gann wrote in an e-mail Monday to students, faculty and staff.
Gann wrote that a lone administrator reported composite scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test that were exaggerated by 10 to 20 points. That employee, whom she did not name, has resigned, she said.
Such scores are often used in various comparisons of colleges across the country, including U.S. News & World Report's prestigious annual rankings.
There was no evidence that individual students' scores were altered, Gann's statement said.
Claremont McKenna, a private, coed college in Claremont about 30 miles east of Los Angeles, was listed ninth among U.S. liberal arts colleges in the magazine's most recent nationwide rankings.FULL STORY
College affordability takes center stage Friday for President Barack Obama as he makes the final stop on his road trip highlighting themes from the State of the Union address this week.
In his speech Friday at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Obama is expected to focus on programs designed to encourage states to shepherd college cost controls, as well as efforts to reform financial aid programs.
Obama wants to create a competitive $1 billion program to encourage states to make changes that help contain college tuition and leverage $10 billion a year in federal aid to hold costs down by providing more assistance to schools that hold tuition down and less to those that do not.FULL STORY
Students who struggle with their spelling lessons may have trouble finding positive reinforcement from some school signs we found spelled incorrectly. Check out these signs that spell trouble:
"SHCOOL X-NG" sign lacking "street smarts" – Since July of last year students at Marta Valle High School on New York City's Lower East Side have had to view a painted street sign outside of their school that was spelled wrong.
"People older than us always tell us to make sure we spell stuff right and this sign is wrong right in front of us," said Tanaysha Ebron, a senior at the school.
The sign, spelled "SHCOOL X-NG" on Stanton Street was corrected Tuesday.
We saw lots of reaction to an opinion piece by Greg Green, principal at Clintondale High outside Detroit, Michigan. He described how his school started a "flipped classes" system, where schoolwork (i.e. homework) is done in class, while lectures are viewed outside of class.
Readers debated whether flipped schools are a possible solution for struggling schools.
Graduated Clintondale high school student – class of 2011: "As a former student, I was part of the 'flip-school' program. The program works all across the board on all scores including ACT and MME scores. Believe it or not, majority of the students were fed up with poor grades and wanted a change. We, the student body, adapted well with the program and in turn had significantly better grades. It wasn't because we had less homework, it was the same amount, we just understood it because we had a prior exposure and dedicated teachers who reinforced the knowledge. The program was and continues to be successful because the students care and want better. As the future, we want a better world than what our parents have given us. If it takes a complete reformation of the education system then let's do it."
Another poster said there are more questions to ask. FULL POST
A Republican California Assemblyman is trying to repeal his state's Dream Act, which would give children of illegal immigrants who have graduated high school access to state college grants starting in 2013.
In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the California Dream Act, which would set aside up to $65 million for the children of illegal immigrants who qualify. The legislation differs from a proposed federal bill called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors - or DREAM - Act, which would give children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship through military service or college education.
“This is absolute sheer insanity,” said Tim Donnelly, the California Assemblyman. “Nobody is as nuts as California."
Donnelly is trying to gather enough signatures on a petition to get a repeal of the law on the November ballot before the legislation goes into effect in 2013.
He said his opposition is based on economics. “We’re broke,” Donnelly said.
Click the audio player to hear more from CNN Radio's Jim Roope:
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. ET Wednesday for Robert Champion, a Florida university drum major who died this month in what officials have called a hazing-related incident.
The services at a church in Lithonia, Georgia, come two days after Champion's family said they will sue the school "to get answers."
"We are concerned about the culture of cover-up, that hazing has been covered up at the Band FAMU for generations," the family's lawyer Chris Chestnut said Monday, referring to the marching band at Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University.
The medical examiner has not issued a report on the cause of death of the 26-year-old student. But, Chestnut said, the facts that have emerged to date "point to the fact that hazing was a cause of Robert Champion's death, and it was under FAMU's watch."
"He loved the band - so much, I always called him Mr. Band," Champion's mother, Pam Champion, told reporters of her son. "That was his life."
At a news conference with reporters Monday, she recalled the phone call she received informing her of her son's death.
The call came shortly after her son had called to say he was coming home for Thanksgiving. "I thought it was some kind of mean joke. ... Maybe it's the wrong kid, maybe it's somebody else."
Champion became ill at an Orlando hotel after a game on November 20. He reportedly threw up in the parking lot and started complaining of not being able to breathe, authorities said.
Champion was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.FULL STORY