Graduates Saddled With Student Loans May Pay Dearly for Decades to Come

Ian Hrabe remembers the phone calls. They started cordially, but got nastier and nastier, until finally the student loan company was calling at 7 a.m., demanding payment on its loan.

National experts agree that people like Hrabe are among a new generation of college graduates having to deal with an increasing mound of debt resulting from decisions they made while in college.

Hrabe graduated from Kansas University in 2009 — “the year of the Great Recession,” he says — with a degree in English, with an emphasis on creative writing, and film studies.

He grew up in Olathe and went to college because he thought that’s what everyone did when they got out of high school, and he wanted to get out of his parents’ house.

“I’m going to go to L.A.; I’m going to make a movie. I’ll write the great American novel,” Hrabe remembered thinking when he entered school as a freshman. But halfway through, he had already soured on those ideas.

“I’m already half done,” he remembered thinking. “I might as well finish it out.”

He wound up working at CD Tradepost for minimum wage in Olathe for a while, as the movie and book career didn’t pan out. Today, he works at Half-Price Books in Lawrence. Continue reading

SIMMONS: As Sanctuary for Illegals, D.C. Proves Hypocritical

By Deborah Simmons The Washington Times

Sanctuary City” referendum anyone?

On Monday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Anacostia High School, and later this week the new H.D. Woodson High will be celebrated.

But will students at those two overwhelmingly black schools actually earn an education that leads to jobs, the military or higher education, or will illegal immigrants bump them to the back of government-subsidized bread lines? It’s possible.

At every turn, Mayor Vincent C. Gray points out that youths and young adults are ill-prepared for self-sufficiency, putting the District at a crossroads.

The unemployment rate is near 10 percent.

More than 4,000 people, a record number, turned out for a D.C.-residents-only job fair last week.

The mayor and representatives of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. shared a microphone Wednesday to announce a public-private partnership that would pay employers to hire and train about 2,000 D.C. residents.

Pass any construction site inside city limits — whether it’s for a single-family home, public-works project or commercial building — and you are likely to see and hear men at work for whom English is not their native language.

Not all such workers can be dubbed illegal, of course. But who really knows? The federal government doesn’t because our porous borders are marked with welcome mats, and neither end of Pennsylvania Avenue wants to tackle illegal immigration.

Many U.S. businesses, such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, formerly owned by McDonald’s Corp., don’t know workers’ status and don’t want to know. Continue reading

Obama Should Tout the Fight for Education

DeWayne Wickham is a columnist for USA Today.

Russlynn Ali came here to the National Association of Black Journalists convention to talk about the black-white achievement gap in public education, but what she had to say could also help close the achievement gap that worries Barack Obama’s key supporters.

Ali has spent most of her professional life on the front line of the struggle to improve educational opportunities for poor and minority schoolchildren. As the top civil rights enforcer in the U.S. Department of Education, she’s the cop on the block when it comes to making sure state and local school districts don’t violate anti-discrimination rules.

In the little more than two years she has been on this beat Ali has amassed an impressive record.

“We have launched more investigations than ever before. Much broader, bigger investigations” into whether school officials are unfairly disciplining black kids and shoving them “into the cradle-to-prison pipeline instead of the cradle-to-career pipeline,” she told me. Continue reading

Commentary: It Takes More than Genius Entrepreneurs to Drive Nation’s Economy

(openPR) – Peter Thiel – founder of the New York-based hedge fund Clarium Capital, co-founder of PayPal, and an early investor in Facebook – has established a foundation to give 20 $100,000 grants to teenagers who would drop out of high school and pursue an ambition of becoming world visionary entrepreneurs.

Harrisburg, PA, August 12, 2011 – Peter Thiel – founder of the New York-based hedge fund Clarium Capital, co-founder of PayPal, and an early investor in Facebook – has established a foundation to give 20 $100,000 grants to teenagers who would drop out of high school and pursue an ambition of becoming world visionary entrepreneurs.
To Thiel, and other contemporary thinkers concerned that economic progress is impeded by the lack of innovation, college in the 21st century has become outdated, its institutional thinking sclerotic. Education’s relevance to economic and social demands is viewed through 20th, if not 19th century, lenses by many of the higher-ed institutions that were founded in those centuries.

Consider Mark Zuckerburg. When he started Facebook in his Harvard University dorm, the school immediately shut down the site because the response to it overwhelmed the university’s server (not to mention complaints from students about their photos being used without permission). Clearly, an institution founded in the 17th century didn’t know how to handle a 21st century entrepreneur and his invention.

While it may be possible to find 20 teenagers who are smart enough, ambitious enough and disciplined enough to create new businesses that bring positive change, they would be a rare breed, and even if they were not, ultimately they would still benefit from a post-secondary education.

For all its faults, the post-secondary credential remains critical to the nation’s as well as an individual’s growth and prosperity. Geniuses, young or old, can’t work through problems and discover solutions from inside a bubble, even if it is a $100,000 bubble. Before publishing his theory of relativity, which enriched physics and astronomy in the 20th century, Albert Einstein earned a four-year degree to teach mathematics, helping launching his career as a theoretical physicist. Continue reading

What if Perry and Dewhurst Lose? Then What?

By Ross Ramsey – Texas tribune

What if Everybody Loses?

Gov. Rick Perry is running for president. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is running for U.S. Senate. And it seems like everyone else in Texas politics is making plans based on one or both of those offices opening in 2012. Then there’s the 2014 election, when most of the statewide spots in Texas government open, and the assumption that neither Perry nor Dewhurst will be on the ballot that year.

What if this has a different ending? What if Perry loses the Republican primary for president and comes home to finish his term? What if he wins the nomination and loses the general election? And what about Dewhurst? What if he loses and comes back to run the State Senate through the Legislature’s 2013 regular session?

They’d both be kind of cranky, don’t you think?

And what about all of those other state officials who’ve been thinking excitedly about what the near future might hold? If the governor and lieutenant governor lose their races, state senators wouldn’t be electing one of their own to handle the rest of Dewhurst’s term or, possibly, Perry’s. The statewide officeholders looking hard at campaigns for 2014 would have to tap the brakes, waiting to see what Dewhurst and Perry do.



The assumption is that Perry would not run for another term, but Texas pols have fallen for that one before. Kay Bailey Hutchison got talked out of a 2006 run for governor by supporters who told her they would back her in 2010 if she’d stay out of the incumbent’s way that year. She did, but Perry surprised her and a lot of other people when he decided to run again in 2010. Continue reading

Republicans’ Big Problem in 2012 — Hispanics

By Andres Oppenheimer

Despite the avalanche of bad news for President Barack Obama, he remains the most likely winner of the 2012 elections.

That’s the conclusion I reached after watching the top Republican presidential hopefuls in recent weeks, as they started in earnest the race for their party’s nomination. They have taken such a hard line on issues that are dear to Latinos, that I don’t see how any of them can win the 40 percent of the Hispanic vote that pollsters say Republicans will need to win the White House.

The last Republican president, George W. Bush, got 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, and the Latino vote has only become more important since. Former Republican candidate Sen. John McCain — who ran as a moderate on immigration — lost the 2008 campaign in part because he got only 31 percent of the Hispanic vote, pollsters say.

So the question today is, how will any of the current Republican hopefuls win a sizable part of the Hispanic vote, when they are embracing a much harder line on Hispanic issues than McCain did in 2008?

At the Republican debate Thursday in Iowa, none of the participating hopefuls supported a comprehensive immigration reform policy — as McCain did four years ago — that would both secure the border and allow an earned path to legalization for millions of undocumented immigrants who are willing to, among other things, pay fines and learn English.

Their common stand seemed to be: “Let’s first seal the border” and crack down on “illegals.” Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who did not participate in the debate but announced his candidacy two days later, toes the same enforcement-first line.

As they try to woo conservative Republicans who tend to be the largest voting blocs in the primaries, they are likely to escalate their rhetoric. To Hispanics, they look like a group bent on the massive deportation of the estimated 11 million undocumented residents in the country, even bright students brought here as babies by their parents.

Republican pollsters note that according to their surveys, Hispanic voters place the economy, education and health ahead of immigration on their list of priorities. Continue reading

Despite Bachmann’s Success, the Real GOP Race is Now Perry vs. Romney

By Beth Reinhard

Texas Gov. Rick Perry announces that he will seek the Republican presidential nomination in Charleston, South Carolina.

Until now, the biggest question looming over the 2012 Republican primary was who would emerge as the leading alternative to the nominal front-runner, Mitt Romney.

We now know the answer to that question: Rick Perry.

Sure, Perry jumped into the race only one day ago and needs to prove he’s worthy of the national stage. Yes, Michele Bachmann is the one who boxed Tim Pawlenty out of the race with her triumph in the Iowa Straw Poll on Saturday.

But it is the governor of the great big state of Texas, not the Minnesota congresswoman, who poses the biggest threat to Romney from here on out. That’s because Perry boasts that killer combination of assets: the power to grab hold of voters — which Bachmann shares — plus a concrete record of creating jobs. It’s the rhetoric plus the results, the inspiration layered on top of the perspiration.

The void in Bachmann’s resume was laid bare in Thursday’s Fox News debate, when she cited the “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act’’ as one of her biggest accomplishments. In an interview on Sunday with CNN’s Candy Crowley, all she could point to was her education reform agenda as a state lawmaker in Minnesota. Continue reading

Doom and Gloom Won’t fix America’s Problems

By Jeff Mullin, columnist Enid News and Eagle

What is wrong with America?

It’s a question many people are asking these days as the nation’s standing as the world’s dominant economy seems to be slipping.

So, what is wrong with America?

We owe way more money than we can ever hope to pay back. Our economy is faltering. The housing market is still in the dumper. We are still at war on two fronts. Our government is dysfunctional, at best. And that’s just to name a few.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted recently found 73 percent of Americans believe this country is “off on the wrong track.”

I’m not convinced we are on the wrong track, just that there are two engines trying to pull the train, in opposite directions.

That is the opinion of President Obama, as well. In a speech Thursday at a hybrid car battery plant in Holland, Mich., the president said in his opinion, “There is nothing wrong with our country. There is something wrong with our politics.”

I agree with his first point, but I differ with him on his second.

Politics has been part of this country since its inception. The concept of bringing together people of different political views to govern creates debate, generates divergent ideas and philosophies and prevents a government marching in lockstep.

Perhaps the problem isn’t with our politics, but with our leaders. And that starts with the president.

Effective presidents are coalition builders, skilled negotiators who can bring together people from both sides of the political spectrum and convince them to work together.

That involves give and take, compromise rather than intransigence, flexibility rather than pig-headedness.

To date, Mr. Obama has failed to demonstrate much alacrity in this area. He used the bully pulpit and a majority in both houses to pass sweeping health care reform, but since the 2010 election left control of the House in Republican hands he has found it much tougher to get his legislation passed.

The leadership failure doesn’t stop there, however. The leaders of both the House and Senate must bear a large share of the blame. The recent debt ceiling fiasco demonstrated just how little control and influence House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid really have over their respective delegations.

It took pushing the country to the brink of a predicted economic Armageddon to goad Congress into acting on the debt ceiling, with legislation that proved too little, too late to keep at least one agency from downgrading the country’s credit rating. That downgrade rests squarely on the heads of Obama, Boehner and Reid, equally.

And what has been done to tackle the problem of the nation’s burgeoning debt? A committee has been formed. As any good church-goer knows, the word committee comes from a French term that means a place where good ideas go to die. Continue reading

Math – tears = Khan academy

Back to School | An increasingly popular online program is teaching children across the country to love a subject they once dreaded | Angela Lu

Larry Busacca/WireImage/Getty Images

Tears. Frustration. That’s how Shannon Reilly’s homeschool math session with her 6th-grade daughter, Morgan, usually ended. Working out of a textbook without a teacher’s manual, she found herself at times unable to explain math problems to Morgan.

In January, the West Virginia resident heard about Khan Academy, a free online classroom. has hundreds of 15-minute videos explaining math concepts, along with electronic practice problems that track a student’s progress. Reilly traded the textbook for the program and asked Morgan to watch videos and spend 20 minutes each day working on the problems.

The tears are gone and Morgan enjoys math now. Her test scores have risen from below grade level to scoring in the 99th percentile in certain sections.

Across the country in San Ynez Middle School in Santa Barbara, Calif., Joe Donahue uses Khan Academy to teach his 7th- and 8th-grade math classes. Donahue requires his students, all on netbooks, to master—at their own pace—25 topics by the end of the trimester. During class time Donahue walks around the room, answering questions and helping those falling behind, as students work on Khan Academy.

He says the difference is huge: “They keep telling me how much they enjoyed what we did. I had kids asking, ‘Can we work in here at lunch? I want to finish a concept.’ They never did that before.”

Despite the different types of education Reilly and Donahue provide, their students are now all watching the same videos and learning the same topics, thanks to Khan Academy.  Some education experts say the online classroom is a way to improve math learning in America, where student test scores rank 25th in the world, well behind economic competitors such as China, South Korea, Germany, and Canada. Critics, though, acknowledge Khan’s usefulness but don’t think it gives American students the innovative, competitive edge they need.

A not-for-profit organization, Khan Academy began when Sal Khan, a hedge fund analyst (see sidebar below), started making videos to tutor his cousins. The videos, which feature Khan’s narration explaining a problem as he digitally writes it on a black screen, started garnering a large following. Viewers left comments expressing how much the videos have helped them: “First time I smiled doing a derivative,” read one.

Khan started getting letters from parents who thanked him for teaching their children math concepts they had tried so hard to convey, and Khan realized that he was on to something. Homeschooler Reilly likes the simplicity of Khan’s videos: “He talks well. He makes it very fun. He draws a little sketch so it’s more like he’s a human instead of just a math guy.”

In 2009, Khan quit his job and started working on Khan Academy full-time. With grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Google, he was able to expand his site, making over 2,400 videos that have been watched more than 63 million times. His next project is to translate all his videos into the world’s major languages to provide his classes to anyone with an internet connection. Continue reading

National Summer Learning Association Chooses Fiver Children’s Foundation and Global Kids, Inc. as Two of the Best Summer Learning Programs

Award-winning New York City programs provide low-income students with quality summer learning. This annual Excellence in Summer Learning Award recognizes summer programs demonstrating excellence in accelerating academic achievement and promoting healthy development for young people, as measured by the Association’s Comprehensive Assessment of Summer Programs. Winning programs also demonstrate exemplary practices in overall programming, including supporting staff, schools and other program partners in fulfilling shared goals.

Baltimore, MD (PRWEB) August 15, 2011

The National Summer Learning Association has chosen the Fiver Children’s Foundation ( and Global Kids, Inc. (, both New York City-based summer programs, as two of the recipients of the 2011 Excellence in Summer Learning Awards.

This annual award recognizes summer programs demonstrating excellence in accelerating academic achievement and promoting healthy development for young people, as measured by
the Association’s Comprehensive Assessment of Summer Programs. Winning programs also demonstrate exemplary practices in overall programming, including supporting staff, schools and other program partners in fulfilling shared goals.

Research has established that low-income students are disproportionately at risk to lose academic skills during the summer. While most children lose up to two months worth of math skills during summer breaks, lower-income children also lose two months of reading skills. Excellence Award winning programs strive to curb these losses, but also employ other research-based practices to build 21st Century skills, confidence, parental engagement and future aspirations.

“This year’s Excellence Award winners are nothing short of inspiring,” said Sarah Pitcock, the Association’s senior director of program quality. “This diverse crop of programs is evidence that regardless of subject matter or setting, young people thrive when summer learning programs build positive relationships, self-efficacy and knowledge in equal measure.” Continue reading

Indiana Bests Florida as Top Education-Reform State

Five-way competition gives credit for tackling collective bargaining; next battle in Tallahassee?

By Kenric Ward

Indiana toppled Florida as the leading education-reform state in 2011, according to a competition conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on Thursday.

In a vote by “Ed Reform Idol” judges as well as in-studio and online audiences, Indiana finished first among five finalists. The other states were Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Florida, a perennial leader in school innovation since Gov. Jeb Bush launched reforms in 1999, pushed ahead in 2011 when the Legislature abolished tenure for newly hired teachers, established a performance-based pay system, provided additional pay for high-need subject areas and at-risk schools, and further expanded charter schools and digital learning.

But the failure by Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers to address collective bargaining in public schools appeared to set Florida back, as Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin all confronted their politically powerful teacher unions this year.

“We’ll tackle collective bargaining next year,” said Patricia Levesque, who represented Florida as executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future.

While Florida fared well in the judges’ comments, Jeanne Allen of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform suggested that the state may be “resting on its laurels” from reforms instituted in previous years.

Allen also questioned how the state will implement the smorgasbord of reforms passed by the 2011 Legislature, including teacher evaluation and compensation systems.

Levesque, who also heads Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, responded that improved parental notification and stricter accountability programs will stop the “dance of lemons” that allows deficient educators to bounce from one campus to another without consequence.

But the judges, selected by the conservative Fordham Institute, were more impressed by Indiana, which abolished collective bargaining for benefits and work rules.

“You can’t do [reform] without changing collective bargaining,” Indiana schools superintendent Tony Bennett said of his state’s progress. Continue reading

Why I’m More Interested in Learning Than Reform

Tom Vander Ark,

Summer education politics are unusually interesting this year with what Rick Hess called Duncan’s Backdoor Blueprint. As is typical, Andy Rotherham’s more measured annotated take adds detail. Hess responds with a clever (and frightening) future take exploring the Duncan Precedent. Rick and Andy are closer to this debate than I am. Far from the beltway, five things are becoming clear:

1. States will matter more. As Fordham’s Mike Petrilli points out state elections matter. With an unraveling and eventually weakened ESEA, state education policy will be more important than ever. States will continue to aggregate control from districts over the key policy levers: standards, assessment, accountability, data, and funding.

2. RFER leadership. The Tea Party may have hijacked the news, but it is Republicans for Education Reform (Petrilli calls them Rhee-publicans) that have become a driving force in American education and Obama‘s strongest allies. Not a formal group like DFER, but pushing a similar agenda, RFER intellectual roots stem from Jeb Bush‘s Florida formula and his foundation’s Chiefs for Change has become a very important leadership support group.

3. New tests=new frame. The predominant frame for American K-12 education this decade will be the new tests developed by two Race to the Top-funded consortia. They are dealing with a tough set of constraints (as described here, here, and here) but will introduce tests that reflect the higher standards of the Common Core.

4. Train wreck ahead. Speaking of the Core, Rotherham predicts a train wreck around the introduction of higher standards. The WSJ reported yesterday that, based on an NCES report, most states have failed to raise the bar. That means these new Core-aligned tests will be a real shock to the system. Some states are starting to ratchet up the degree of difficulty, but the level of reported failure will be shocking for most of the country in 2014.

5. New Normal. This week’s financial gyrations make clear that we’re in for several more years of what Duncan last fall called the New Normal — higher expectations and lower funding. Continue reading

Feds Might Give Waivers: Local School Districts React With Caution

Superintendents said they need details about proposed No Child Left Behind flexibility.

York, PA- Some local school district officials cautiously welcomed the idea of flexibility on the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law, saying they want more details on how proposed relief would work.Since the law took effect in 2002, educators have contended that its goal of having 100 percent of students passing standardized reading and math tests by 2014, while noble, is unrealistic. The law aimed to improve student achievement through increased accountability for schools.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education, citing a lack of action from Congress to reauthorize the law, announced that it will create a process to allow states to ask that some of the requirements be waived.

The law requires a certain percentage of students at individual schools and districts to meet progress targets on annual math and reading exams, with the bar rising over the years. By 2014, schools are required to have 100 percent of students scoring proficient or better on the tests.

The department said Monday it will allow states to apply for waivers from some requirements provided the states embrace other education reforms.

Details on the waivers have not been released and are not expected until September. But the department said the package would reflect goals similar to those in the administration’s proposal for fixing No Child Left Behind, such as an accountability system based on measuring student growth.

The flexibility would have the most impact starting in the 2012-13 school year, according to the department.

Some local officials were receptive to the idea. Continue reading