November 28th, 2011
01:54 AM ET

Teen will not apologize to governor's office for Twitter post

A high school senior, who faces a Monday morning deadline to apologize to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback for a disparaging tweet, has said she will not write the apology letter.

"I don't think I should write the letter and I don't think it would be the best move for me," Emma Sullivan, 18, said late Sunday night. "At this time, I do not think an apology would be a sincere thing for me to do."

Sullivan said her parents and many of her peers support her decision.

The teen made national headlines last week for a tweet she said was intended just for her friends.

During a Kansas Youth in Government field trip to the state capitol on November 21, Sullivan wrote: "Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot."

The Shawnee Mission East senior says she did not actually talk to Brownback, and the post referenced a joke she had with a student on the trip.

The next day, she was called into the principal's office.

"I had no idea what it was about or why I was being called into the office," she said. "I had never been in trouble before."

A Brownback staffer had notified the principal, she said.

"My principal told me he needed to do damage control and was really upset," Sullivan said. "He said I was an embarrassment to the school and the school district and that I had been disrespectful."

The principal then asked her to write a letter of apology to Brownback and his staff. He set Monday as the due date for the letter.


Filed under: Education • U.S.
October 8th, 2011
05:54 PM ET

Undocumented immigrant students will be eligible for California aid

Undocumented immigrant students in California will be able to receive state-funded financial aid in 2013 to attend college under a new law signed Saturday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The law allows top students who are on a path to citizenship to apply and receive the state aid, the governor said.

About 2,500 students are projected to receive Cal Grants totaling $14.5 million, according to the California Department of Finance. That averages out to $5,800 per student.

The funding amounts to 1% of the overall $1.4 billion Cal Grant program, officials said.

The new law, AB 131, is one of two pieces of legislation known as the California Dream Act and will become effective January 1, 2013, officials said.

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Filed under: California • Education • Immigration
Gotta Watch: Waiting is the hardest part
Defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan of the Chicago Bears gets carried off the field by defensive lineman Richard Dent #95 and teammate as they celebrate their victory over the New England Patriots in Super bowl XX
October 7th, 2011
11:07 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Waiting is the hardest part

It's a long-standing tradition that championship-winning sports teams get invited to the White House.  The Super Bowl 20-winning Chicago Bears are no exception.  In 1986, the Bears were scheduled to meet President Ronald Reagan at the White House to celebrate their big victory. However, just days after the championship, space shuttle Challenger blew up and their trip got cancelled.  Today, 25 years after their scheduled visit, that Chicago Bears team is finally going to the White House. In honor of this long-awaited and well-deserved honor, we at Gotta Watch put together some videos of people who had to wait a long time to get something.  While waiting may be the hardest part, some rewards are worth waiting for.

A piece of her late father - It's not often that people leave messages for their loved ones in a bottle and toss it in the sea.  It's even less often that a person receives that message five decades later.  Check out the story of a New Hampshire woman who, through a strange turn of events, is reunited with a note from her late father.


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Filed under: Education • Football • Gotta Watch • Pro football • Sports • Super Bowl
September 28th, 2011
11:35 AM ET

7 arrested in alleged SAT cheating scam

Authorities have arrested seven people in an alleged SAT cheating scam at a Long Island, New York, high school and are investigating whether the cheating extends to other schools.

Samuel Eshaghoff, 19, of Great Neck, New York, was arrested Tuesday on felony fraud charges that could result in four years in prison if he's convicted, the Nassau County District Attorney's Office said. Six students face misdemeanor charges. Their names are not being released because they are minors.

Samuel Eshaghoff

Prosecutors allege Eshaghoff impersonated six Great Neck North High students between 2010 and 2011, charging between $1,500 and $2,500 to take the SAT test for them. Eshaghoff would take the test at schools other than Great Neck, where proctors would not be familiar with the students' identity, and present fake, unofficial identification, prosecutors say.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said authorities uncovered the scam after hearing rumors of cheating, comparing the test scores of suspects to their school grade-point averages, and finding a "wide gulf" in the cases of the six suspects. The district attorney's office said it is investigating possible cheating scams at two other Nassau County high schools as well as possible further instances involving Eshaghoff.

Eshaghoff's attorney, Matin Emouna, said his client has pleaded not guilty in the case.

And he said cheating on tests is something that should be handled in schools, not in criminal courts.

"At what point are you going to draw the line?" Emouna asked during a phone interview with CNN Wednesday. "No one has had a case like this in the U.S., and I think attorneys are going to have a field day with it."

The victims in the case are students who are denied admission at the colleges of their choice by students who cheated, Rice said Wednesday on CNN's "American Morning."

"Honest kids should not be bumped out of college slots by kids who cheated," she said.


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Filed under: Crime • Education • New York
September 23rd, 2011
11:09 AM ET

Obama: States may skip parts of 'No Child Left Behind'

U.S. President Barack Obama announced Friday that states will be allowed to opt out of various requirements of the controversial No Child Left Behind law - the landmark education reform initiative passed with broad bipartisan support a decade ago.

The administration will begin reviewing state applications to waive various requirements in the law in return for credible commitments to close lingering achievement gaps.

The law, which passed 2001, requires public schools to meet targets aimed at making all students proficient in reading and math by 2014 or face stiff penalties. The Department of Education has predicted up to 82% of the nation's schools could miss that target and face penalties including the loss of federal education dollars.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Education • Politics
On the Radar: No school in Tacoma, rally for Davis, bill for Anthony
Teachers walk a picket line Wednesday in Tacoma, Washington.
September 16th, 2011
05:50 AM ET

On the Radar: No school in Tacoma, rally for Davis, bill for Anthony

Three things you need to know today.

Tacoma school strike: Classes are suspended again Friday in Tacoma, Washington, after teachers voted to continue their strike, in defiance of a a court order to stop.

Rich Wood, the spokesman for the Tacoma teachers union, said teachers voted Thursday to continue their strike despite a judge's Wednesday order. At a union meeting Thursday afternoon, 1,478 teachers voted to keep striking, Wood said, adding that 107 voted "no" or abstained. He said teachers were concerned about how Judge Bryan Chushcoff would react to their defying his order.

The Tacoma School District did not return a call seeking comment, but a message posted on the district's website said school for 28,000 students would be suspended again Friday, as it has been all week.

Rally to stop execution: The Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network plans to hold a candlelight vigil Friday for convicted cop killer Troy Davis at Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. Sharpton will speak at the rally at 7 p.m. ET.

Davis, 42, is set to be executed at 7 p.m. Wednesday by lethal injection next week for the 1989 murder of Savannah, Georgia, police officer Mark MacPhail.

But since his 1991 conviction, seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted or contradicted their testimony. No physical evidence was presented linking Davis to the killing of the policeman.

Supporters Thursday delivered a massive petition containing more than 663,000 signatures in support of clemency for Davis to Georgia officials.

They're worried that won't be enough, as all legal appeals have been exhausted and only Gov. Nathan Deal or the state Pardon and Parole Board can call off Wednesday's execution. The board denied clemency in 2008.

Bill for Anthony: Casey Anthony owes authorities just under $98,000 for the costs of investigating the disappearance of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in 2008, a Florida judge ruled Thursday.

The decision means prosecutors are set to recoup less than one-fifth of the more than $516,000 that they had sought. The state had argued that if it were not for the 25-year-old Orlando woman's lies, investigators wouldn't have had to expend the time and money to find her daughter's body.

They searched for five months, eventually finding Caylee's skeletal remains in woods less than a mile from her grandparents' Orlando home.

Orange County Superior Court Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. found Anthony is liable for expenses incurred from July 15, 2008, when Caylee was reported missing, to September 29 of that year, when authorities ended their missing-person case and opened a homicide investigation.

Filed under: Casey Anthony • Civil Rights • Crime • Death Penalty • Education • Justice • On the Radar
Update: Mexican students who survived drug violence thrive in America
Alejandro Caballero crossed the U.S.-Mexico border each day to attend high school. Now, he has a full scholarship at Iowa's Simpson College.
September 13th, 2011
06:51 PM ET

Update: Mexican students who survived drug violence thrive in America

Alejandro Caballero attends college in Iowa, nearly 1,000 miles away from his home and family in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It's his third year studying marketing communications at Simpson College, but he's been going to school in the United States for nearly eight.

Caballero, 20, began crossing the border from Juarez to El Paso, Texas, for school when he was 13. His mother dropped him off every day at the border in Juarez and he made the trip alone to El Paso for six years.

The experience taught him a valuable lesson about responsibility and independence, one that got him through high school and has earned him a full college scholarship three years in a row.

"I would get that feeling of now, after 8 a.m., when mom drops me off at the border, I'm independent. I can do whatever I want. I can go to school or skip school," he said. "Obviously I never did skip school, but it gave me that feeling of being independent, of realizing that I could make my own decisions, and I could make the right ones or the wrong ones."


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Filed under: Education • Juarez • Mexico
September 7th, 2011
07:09 PM ET

Ohio mom who lied to get kids into neighboring school district gets reprieve

Ohio Gov. John Kasich reduced the charges against a mother who lied about her residency to send her children to school in another district, saying the punishment didn't fit the crime.

Kelley Williams-Bolar was convicted in January of two felony counts of tampering with records for using her parents' address so she could send her daughters to Copley-Fairlawn City Schools without paying tuition. She lived in public housing in Akron at the time and said she didn't want to leave her daughters home alone after school.

Williams-Bolar, a teacher's aide, served nine days in jail after receiving a five-year suspended sentence. In her appeal for clemency, she claimed that the felony convictions would prevent her from obtaining a teacher's license.

In a rare departure from a recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board, Kasich reduced her convictions to two misdemeanor counts of tampering with records, saying the punishment seemed excessive.

"No one should interpret this as a pass; it's a second chance," Kasich said in a statement. "The penalty could exclude her from certain economic opportunities for the rest of her life. So, today I've reduced those felony convictions to what I think are the more appropriate first-degree misdemeanors."

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Filed under: Crime • Education • Ohio
Gotta Watch: Story behind Little Rock 9
September 4th, 2011
01:20 PM ET

Gotta Watch: Story behind Little Rock 9

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court declared all laws establishing segrated schools unconstitutional. That meant African-American students could legally attend all-white schools. By 1957, the NAACP registered a group of nine black students to attend Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas.  The school board agreed to comply with the 1954 ruling and approved a plan for gradual integration that would start that school year. 

On September 4, that group of students, later nicknamed the "Little Rock 9," attempted to enter Central High on the first day of school, but a crowd of angry students and hundreds of National Guardsmen blocked them from entering. The incident grabbed national attention - and the attention of President Eisenhower. As a result, the nine students attended the school under federal protection, opening the door for black students across the country. In today's Gotta Watch, we're featuring highlights from that historic day and reaction from the Little Rock 9 as they look back on their experiences three decades later.

A day that changed history – Take a look at this historical footage from the very day the so-called Little Rock 9 were blocked from entering their school.


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Filed under: Arkansas • Civil Rights • Courts • Education • Gotta Watch • Hate crime • History • Human rights • Justice • U.S.
Ohio mom who put kids in wrong school was 'deceitful,' parole board says
Kelley Williams-Bolar served nine days in January for her conviction on two counts of falsifying records.
September 2nd, 2011
08:17 PM ET

Ohio mom who put kids in wrong school was 'deceitful,' parole board says

The Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended against clemency for a mother who lied about her residency so her children could attend school tuition-free in another district.

Kelley Williams-Bolar admitted in a July hearing that she was wrong to enroll her two daughters in the Copley-Fairlawn school district from under her father's address while she lived in subsidized housing in Akron. She claimed she did so because she did not want to leave her daughters home alone after school while she was attending classes at The University of Akron, fearing for their safety after a 2006 burglary.

The eight-panel board concluded that she could have investigated other options, such as looking at other districts, asking friends or neighbors to babysit, or actually moving into her parents' home. Instead, she chose "a pattern of deceitful behavior," the Board wrote in its clemency report, released Friday.

"Ms. Williams-Bolar was faced with a no more difficult situation than any other working parent who must ensure that their children are safe during, before and after school hours in their absence," it said in its ruling. "Most parents find legitimate and legal options to address this issue. Ms. Williams-Bolar's only response was to be deceitful."

The recommendation goes on to Gov. John Kasich, who expressed sympathy for Williams-Bolar earlier this year after her sentencing.

"Although we are disappointed with the Parole Board's recommendation, we remain confident that justice will ultimately prevail," Williams-Bolar's lawyer, David Singleton, said. "The Governor, not the Parole Board, has the last word on Kelley's clemency petition."


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Filed under: Crime • Education • Ohio
Colleges ease financial burden through increased grants from endowments
Pomona College draws from its endowment to replace loans with grants for students like Seanna Leath.
September 1st, 2011
08:44 PM ET

Colleges ease financial burden through increased grants from endowments

Seanna Leath grew up poor in Little Rock, Arkansas, dodging evictions and urban violence.

Somehow, she tuned out the chaos well enough to earn outstanding grades in high school. Now the 20-year-old is thriving at California's Pomona College, the sixth-ranked liberal arts school in America, according U.S. News and World Report.

Pomona pays almost all of Leath's $50,000 annual tab for tuition, room and board. Now a junior, Leath still seems in awe of the stately campus of 1,560 students.

"Three years ago I just would not have believed that I would be here," said Leath, a junior who has a double major in psychology and African studies. "I never thought I could go to Pomona and not have huge loans."

While many universities are reporting tuition increases for the 2011-2012 year, prospective students may still be able to find some relief through increased scholarships at some institutions, especially elite private schools with large endowments.

While the cost of college continues to skyrocket, families reported paying 9% less for an education in 2010-2011 than a year ago, according to a Sallie Mae survey.

The savings come from cost-cutting measures such as attending lower-cost colleges, living at home or going to school part-time, according to Sallie Mae. But grants and scholarships played an increasingly important role, covering 33% of college costs in 2010-2011, up from 23% the previous year.


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Filed under: Education
Texas A&M Aggies on their way out of Big 12, but to where?
Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill may be the last quarterback to skipper the Aggies as members of the Big 12 Conference.
August 31st, 2011
12:35 PM ET

Texas A&M Aggies on their way out of Big 12, but to where?

Texas A&M University took another step Wednesday in its bid to leave the Big 12, notifying its conference that it had submitted an application to join another league, according to a news release.

There has been ongoing speculation that the Aggies might join the Southeastern Conference, a premier athletic conference that can boast the past five national football champions. However, the Texas A&M news release did not say which conference it had applied to join.

Should the application be accepted, the Aggies will vacate the Big 12 Conference on June 30, the university said.

University President R. Bowen Loftin told conference Commissioner Dan Beebe in a letter that it was in the school's best interest to join another conference.

"We appreciate the Big 12's willingness to engage in a dialogue to end our relationship through a mutually agreeable settlement," Loftin wrote. "We, too, desire that this process be as amicable and prompt as possible and result in a resolution of all outstanding issues."

The Aggies have been a part of the Big 12 since the conference was expanded from the Big Eight ahead of the 1996-97 season. The 49,000-student institution situated in College Station enjoyed record athletic success last year, scoring nine conference championships and four national titles, according to the university.


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Filed under: College football • Education • Football • Sports • Texas • U.S.
NCAA's stricter academic rules: What does it mean for your team?
UConn;s Kemba Walker sports a No. 1 shirt after winning the NCAA championship, but under new rules his team wouldn't have made it to the dance.
August 17th, 2011
09:04 AM ET

NCAA's stricter academic rules: What does it mean for your team?

The NCAA is raising its academic requirements for postseason competition, including bowl games and March Madness, the organization announced Thursday in a news release.

Had the new rules been in effect during the 2010-11 academic year, the University of Connecticut would not have been able to compete in (and win) the NCAA basketball tournament. Syracuse and Florida State would have also been barred from the Big Dance, and the University of Southern California wouldn't have qualified for the "First Four" play-in game it lost to Virginia Commonwealth.

The NCAA calculates an academic progress rate that measures retention and graduation rates for every Division I team, reflecting the previous four academic years. The score comes out to a number as high as 1,000. Since its introduction in 2005, teams with APRs below 925 would face penalties, such as losing scholarships. Postseason bans would be issued only after three consecutive years of APRs below 900.

When the new rule is in full effect, only teams that have APRs of at least 930 will be able to compete in the postseason, according to a NCAA news release. The new rule will be gradually implemented over the next five years.  An APR of 930 comes out to a 50% graduation rate, according to the news release.


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Filed under: Basketball • College basketball • College football • Education • Football • Sports
For the humanoid obsessed, a free online Stanford course from top AI experts
A Japanese humanoid robot sings and dances with performers at a 2010 expo in Tokyo.
August 16th, 2011
12:55 PM ET

For the humanoid obsessed, a free online Stanford course from top AI experts

Call it the rise of the robots.

Over the past decade the obsession with artificial intelligence has captivated people worldwide. You need to look no further than every other "Battlestar Galactica"-like TV show and movie being created or even to NASA's Robonaut and Japan's "humanoid" robots, which can walk, talk, think for themselves, be a nurse or even pour drinks.

So perhaps it's not surprising that when two Stanford University professors came up with the idea to offer their Introduction to Artificial Intelligence class online for free, people flocked to it as it were a viral video.

But the demand for the course is more than the professors likely ever expected. As of midday Tuesday, the class, which usually attracts 200 students at Stanford, has more than 64,000 people signed up - an impressive feat considering the university has less than 7,000 undergraduate students.

"We have been absolutely ecstatic about the many, many of you who are up to take this challenging class," professor Sebastian Thrun said in a video posted on a website for the class.

It's unclear whether all these people will go through with taking the class, which starts in October, but there are a few interesting things worth noting about it.

For one, the folks behind this class aren't your regular run-of-the-mill college professors. FULL POST

August 11th, 2011
08:29 AM ET

Skeleton mystery in New Zealand school

It could be the plot for the pilot of "CSI: New Zealand."

That half-skeleton they've been using for years as a teaching aid isn't a model, it's the real thing.

Principal Bastienne Kruger at Totara North School was about to use the skeleton during a presentation recently when she realized it wasn't plastic but real human bones, the Northern Advocate in New Zealand reports.

"When we realized it was real we wanted to do right by this poor person, but we didn't know how," the paper quoted Kruger as saying. She called the local hospital, which advised her to hand the remains, including a skull and complete ribs, hands and feet for one half of a body, over to the authorities.


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Filed under: Education • New Zealand
Sexual assault cases raise concern at University of Michigan
Ann Arbor police released two composites based on victims' descriptions of their attackers.
August 3rd, 2011
03:56 PM ET

Sexual assault cases raise concern at University of Michigan

Parents and students of incoming freshman at the University of Michigan expressed concern this week in the wake of a series of sexual assaults near campus.

Six women were attacked within 11 days starting on July 15, said Lt. Angella Abrams of the Ann Arbor Police Department. In each incident, victims gave similar descriptions of their assailant, which yielded two composites.

In one incident on July 15, a woman reported that a man between 20 and 30 years old grabbed her as she spoke on her cell phone. The attacker - who she said had short, dark hair and olive skin - tried to drag her away, Ann Arbor police said. In another incident three days later, the victim said she was walking between two buildings on the edge of campus when a white man - about 20 years old and with dark hair and eyes - sexually assaulted her.

Though the number of perpetrators is unclear, police believe the incidents could be related but do not have any suspects in custody, Abrams said.

“There’s a common description,” Abrams said. “There’s a common M.O.  of what has occurred to the women. And we’re also talking an 11-day period (of) criminal sexual assaults on women that have a common theme. That is not something that occurs, generally. This is a very safe town. This is 11 days of sexual assaults of women. That is highly unusual. That has led us to believe that we have a predator or predators who is preying on women.”


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Filed under: Crime • Education
July 26th, 2011
04:56 PM ET

Valedictorian sues school: Was she snubbed because of race?

A recent high school graduate from Arkansas is suing her school district, claiming it refused to recognize her as the school's sole valedictorian because she is black.

Kymberly Wimberly, 18, earned the highest grade point average in McGehee Secondary School's 2011 graduating class. She did so as a young mother, according to the complaint she submitted to the U.S. District Court for Arkansas' Eastern District. She was named the school's valedictorian and then later given co-valedictorian status with a white student who had lower grades, her complaint says.

Kymberly Wimberly

No legal response has been filed by lawyers for the school district or any other school or district representatives, according to court officials. Superintendent Thomas Gathen said he has yet to be served with any sort of court documents. Because of this, Gathen said he was unable to comment on several individual issues brought up in Wimberly's complaint.

"The issue that someone’s trying to paint is that this was a racially motivated," Gathen told CNN. "That wasn’t an issue with (the co-valedictorians). This is strictly an academic issue and a policy issue, not a racial issue."

Wimberly is seeking punitive damages of $75,000 and recognition as the sole valedictorian of her class. Wimberly's complaint also argues the McGehee school district, in southeastern Arkansas not too far from the Mississippi River, habitually withheld access to challenging classes from black students.

Wimberly said students were told at a schoolwide assembly that advance placement classes were very rigorous and that only those who really thought they would thrive with intense workloads should elect to take them. Then, individual students were taken aside and told that the classes really weren’t all that bad, she told CNN. The overwhelming majority of those students were white, she said, adding that she was the only black student in her AP literature class and one of two in calculus.

“Black students are meant to stay in regular course levels and mostly play sports,” Wimberly said. “That’s what were good at that that’s what we should stick to - that’s the mentality of McGehee.”

Wimberly said she had one teacher, for AP biology, who encouraged all students to take the class. Its racial makeup was half black, half white, and was more reflective of McGehee's student population, which is 46%  black.

The case has been gaining increasing attention since Courthouse News Service reported on it Monday.


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Filed under: Arkansas • Civil Rights • Courts • Education • Justice • Race • U.S.
Atlanta teachers accused in cheating scandal told to resign or be fired
Atlanta Public School Superintendent Erroll Davis Jr. signed the letters.
July 15th, 2011
09:29 PM ET

Atlanta teachers accused in cheating scandal told to resign or be fired

The superintendent of the Atlanta Public School system has issued an ultimatum to 178 teachers implicated in one of the nation's largest school cheating scandals: resign or be fired.

Interim Superintendent Erroll Davis Jr. signed the letters, which were sent Thursday, to educators named in a report as either confessing to or being implicated in "testing improprieties," Atlanta Public School spokesman Keith Bromery said.

The letters gave teachers the opportunity to resign Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, Bromery said. If teachers don't
resign, the district plans to initiate termination proceedings.

Dozens of Atlanta public school educators falsified standardized tests or failed to address such misconduct in their schools, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said a week ago. He was unveiling the results of a state investigation that confirmed widespread cheating in city schools dating as far back as 2001.

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Filed under: Education • Georgia
Educators warn of negative effects of not teaching cursive in schools
Lauren Sanchez teaches cursive writing to third graders at St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in Burbank, California.
July 8th, 2011
09:34 PM ET

Educators warn of negative effects of not teaching cursive in schools

Handwriting experts and educators worry that Indiana's choice to stop teaching cursive in schools could negatively affect a child's ability to learn.

The Indiana Department of Education joined 39 other states in adopting the Common Core curriculum, an initiative to phase out cursive writing in classrooms in favor of providing students more time to hone digital skills.

But some believe the move could adversely affect children.

"The fluidity of cursive allows, I think, for gains in spelling and a better tie to what they are reading and comprehending through stories and such and through literature," said Paul Sullivan, principal of St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in Burbank, California.

"I think there’s a firmer connection of wiring between the brain’s processes of learning these skills and the actual practice of writing."

Listen to the full interview here:

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to podcasts here.

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Filed under: Education • Indiana
July 1st, 2011
04:31 PM ET

Michigan ban on considering race in college admissions struck down

A divided federal appeals court has struck down Michigan's ban on consideration of race and gender in college admissions.

The issue is likely to renew the national political and legal debate over affirmative action, which the Supreme Court could be poised to resolve in coming months.

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday concluded in a 2-1 ruling that the voter-approved ban on "preferential treatment" at state colleges and universities was unconstitutional, and "alters Michigan's political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities."

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Filed under: Civil Rights • Education • Michigan
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