Education Nation

This week NBC is featuring many segments on the future of education in our country. Why am I so interested? Well, there are multiple reasons I am engaged in this debate on many different levels and reasons why I think EVERY American should be paying more attention to the state of our public schools. Here are my reasons for caring:

– As a teacher, regardless of where I teach, I want the very best for every single one of my students. I also want to keep growing and learning professionally. I want to be the best  I can be; which means constantly adapting and learning…which of course, costs money.

– As a bonus-parent, I want the very best for my children no matter where they attend school. They deserve the best teachers, materials, and infrastructure they can get!

– As a tax-payer, I contribute a chunk of charge to my school system and I know it is my CIVIC DUTY to hold the public school system accountable for those dollars.

– As a political science student, education is a highly controversial public policy area with an abundance of research in various aspects of the field. I love to study trends in education and brainstorm solutions for the future.

 I am sure there are many other reasons I could list, but I will let you come up with a few of your own. The point is, it does not matter who you are, how much money you have, how much access you have to quality schools and teachers, public education is OUR issue. It is not an issue of the past, or the present, it is the key to our future.

Now that you understand why I care, I would like to provide you with a few bits of information that might make you care, or at least make you pay attention to the debate.

A few statistics to make you think – or make you angry when you read my comments.

– Virginia graduated about 76% of students within a 4-year time period in 2008. What happened to the rest of our students? Did they take 5 years? 6 years? Or did they give up? Did they ever even get a GED? I can tell you one thing, I bet none of them are reading this blog post. So I pose the question to you, what are they doing? Are they successful, happy, financially secure?

-Among those graduates, 84% of the white and Asian students graduated in 4 years, and only 68% of black students graduated in 4 years. Why the disparity? Should their be programs aimed at retaining black students and ensuring their success throughout their high school careers? What can we do to encourage ALL Virginia student to get through high school within 4 years?

-The average career span of a teacher is now 5 years. Seriously? When did that become the norm for educators? What are we doing wrong as a country to discourage so many from heading into this wonderful profession? How can we fix it?

-Menchville High School in Newport News graduates 85% of their 4 year cohorts each year. Is that a good statistic in your mind? It is better than the average Virginia high school, but does that make it elite?

-Can our future generations live in this type of economy without key skills and without graduating from high school? A GED  or high school diploma increases earning potential by $9,000 per year, and a bachelor’s degree by almost $16,000 on top of that.

I know you have heard it all before; education is essential to our survival! Thanks for reading my rambling – I hope I increased your awareness of this issue..even if only by a small fraction. Our future depends on the steps we take today.

Visit: to see more coverage of education nations and find more interesting articles, statistics, and online learning tools.

Thankful…for legs, computers, and engaged students

Yesterday morning I got up, just as I do on a usual day, and got ready to go for a run. As I fumbled around in the dark I found my clothes, running shoes, and handy GPS watch, I started thinking of all the reasons I choose to run early in the morning. I chose to run yesterday for mostly selfish reasons. I like to feel fit, wake up to crisp air, clear my head before starting a busy day, and it is a lot easier to get my run out of the way before my “real” day begins. For some reason yesterday all I could think of is just how lucky I am to have legs that can help me run. Not only do my legs support me as I cruise down the street, but so does my heart and my mind. I am so very fortunate to be able to use my body to run…walk…stand…think…move…teach…learn.

The next thing I found myself being thankful for is my computer. I was able to talk to my amazing husband, pay bills, enter grades, answer emails, talk to an old friend, and schedule a doctors appointment using the little machine I have become so very fond of. Without my computer, I am not sure that I can function. My life revolves around a small machine that can almost run my life in a way.

My students are almost always sharp, consistent, enthusiastic, and intellectually curious. But for some reason – I found myself smiling ALL DAY at the thought of just how incredibly engaged my (well not MY, more like HRA) students are in class. They are always excited to explore new content and  learn from them every single day. I may be the teacher but we learn together in my classroom. I am so fortunate to teach them everyday! I hope they realize how happy I am to see them making progress in class…and how much joy it gives me to know they are truly engaged in our class discussions.

Yesterday and today I am thankful for many things – just as we all should be everyday. But without my legs to carry me, my computer to organize me, and my students to inspire me….today would have just been another day.

What are you thankful for? Go ahead – I challenge you to think of at least 3 things.

Making our graduates SMARTER! The key is economics : )

What are the keys to being a successful college student? Knowing a little something about how the world works would be one of them! I am a HUGE advocate of having all high school students, or college students, take a basic economics course. I was not a huge fan as a student myself but as an adult I find understanding economics enormously valuable to my everyday life. The same goes for having a little knowledge about personal finance…all of us need to be aware of how to make small and large scale financial choices. Harvard professor, Dr. Mankiw, offers some helpful tips for students of all ages in the article below and the subject found at the top of his list is…of course…economics! Become a better citizen, learn powerful analytical skills, and equip yourself with helpful tools to interpret what is happening globally and locally. Learn some econ…enough said!

So if possible…enroll in a class.  If not, try reading Naked Economics by Charless Wheelan for a simple overview.

A Course Load for the Game of Life


AS a Harvard professor who teaches introductory economics, I have the delightful assignment of greeting about 700 first-year students every fall. And this year, I am sending the first of my own children off to college. Which raises these questions: What should they be learning? And what kind of foundation is needed to understand and be prepared for the modern economy?

David G. Klein
Here is my advice for students of all ages:

LEARN SOME ECONOMICS You knew this was coming. Perhaps I am just trying to protect my profession’s market share, but I hope it is more than that.

The great economist Alfred Marshall called economics “the study of mankind in the ordinary business of life.” When students leave school, “the ordinary business of life” will be their most pressing concern. If the current moribund economy turns into a lost decade, as some economists fear it might, it will be crucial to be prepared for it.

There may be no better place than a course in introductory economics. It helps students understand the whirlwind of forces swirling around them. It develops rigorous analytic skills that are useful in a wide range of jobs. And it makes students better citizens, ready to evaluate the claims of competing politicians.

For those who have left college behind, it is not too late to learn. Pick up an economics textbook (mine would be a fine choice), and you might find yourself learning more than you imagined.

Not convinced? Even if you are a skeptic of my field, as many are, there is another, more cynical reason to study it. As the economist Joan Robinson once noted, one purpose of studying economics is to avoid being fooled by economists.

LEARN SOME STATISTICSHigh school mathematics curriculums spend too much time on traditional topics like Euclidean geometry and trigonometry. For a typical person, these are useful intellectual exercises but have little applicability to daily life. Students would be better served by learning more about probability and statistics.

One thing the modern computer age has given everyone is data. Lots and lots of data. There is a large leap, however, between having data and learning from it. Students need to know the potential of number-crunching, as well as its limitations. All college students are well advised to take one or more courses in statistics, at least until high schools update what they teach.

LEARN SOME FINANCE With the rise of 401(k) plans and the looming problems with Social Security, Americans are increasingly in charge of their own financial future. But are they up to the task?

Few high school students graduate with the tools needed to make smart choices. Indeed, many enter college without knowing, for instance, what stocks and bonds are, what risks and returns these assets offer, and how best to manage those risks.

The evidence of financial naïveté shows up every time some company goes belly up. Whether it is Enron or Lehman Brothers, many company employees are often caught with a large fraction of their wealth in a single stock. They fail to heed the most basic lesson of finance — that diversification provides a free lunch. It reduces risk without lowering expected return.

College is an investment with a great return. The gap between the wages of college graduates and those with only high school diplomas is now large by historical standards. If those college grads are going to manage their earnings intelligently, they need to study the fundamentals of financial decision making.

LEARN SOME PSYCHOLOGY Economists like me often pretend that people are rational. That is, with mathematical precision, people are assumed to do the best they can to achieve their goals.

For many purposes, this approach is useful. But it is only one way to view human behavior. A bit of psychology is a useful antidote to an excess of classical economics. It reveals flaws in human rationality, including your own.

This is one lesson I failed to heed when I was in college. I never took a single psychology course as an undergrad. But after the birth of behavioral economics, which infuses psychology into economics, I remedied that mistake. Several years ago, as a Harvard faculty member, I audited an introductory psychology course taught by Steven Pinker. I don’t know if it made me a better economist. But it has surely made me a more humble one, and, I suspect, a better human being as well.

IGNORE ADVICE AS YOU SEE FIT Adults of all stripes have advice for the college-bound. Those leaving home and starting their freshman year should listen to it, consider it, reflect on it but ultimately follow their own instincts and passions.

The one certain thing about the future is that it is far from certain. I don’t know what emerging industries will be attracting college graduates four years from now, and neither does anyone else. The next generation will shape its own economy, as the young Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg shaped ours. Those now packing up their clothes, buying textbooks and meeting roommates hold the future in their hands. Every year, when I look out over my 700 eager freshmen on that first day of class, the view gives me optimism about the path ahead.


N. Gregory Mankiw is a professor of economics at Harvard.

Laptops…or paper?

It is an ongoing debate…what is a better way to retain knowledge? Through traditional note taking methods such as pen and paper or using word processing tools and online note sites. I feel so in control with a pen in my hand and I am quite good at furiously taking down notes (or making to-do lists) when someone is speaking or when watching an interesting news segment/video. I even like to take notes while the President is speaking or during press conferences. Wouldn’t the world benefit more from my thoughts and diligence if I was able to share my notes? Couldn’t I tweet or write a blog post about the Presidents remarks instead of hoarding my thoughts on that tiny paper? What if my students shared their thoughts on Federalist #51 or on how the framers debated The Bill of Rights? Better yet…what if my students debated with each other about the intentions of our framers in an open-source environment where many other students could benefit from their heated conversation. Wouldn’t that information benefit someone, somewhere? The more we share – the more we grow. The first step is to begin collecting my data (notes!) electronically and encouraging others to do so (sometimes..when they are comfortable…perhaps baby steps) and then I will work on sharing the information and learning from others that have also chosen to take a leap and share their knowledge.

As I type this there is a student in my study hall using an ipad to study and all of his notes are on soundnote. Maybe he can teach me a thing or two!

Some research about online notes: This is an older article but has some amazing information! Their blog is a great one though : )

Digital Notes…yikes!

Well today I am going to attempt (and probably fail) at taking digital notes at our PLP conference in Dallas. I wanted to share this tool for all those that are reading my blog in progress! You can search your notes, save them forever, share them if you choose. I want to encoruage my students to take digital notes and share them when possible. Which means making them comfortable taking notes on laptops and phones…yes I said it….phones…our students should be using the tools they already have to take notes and study.

Check it our. Download it. Use it! I am challenging anyone that is up for it.


I had a great time learning about RSS feeds this evening. Before today, I had no idea what a RSS feed was and why I would ever want to know anything about them. Now I am IN LOVE with using my reader and connecting all the blogs and news I follow. I literally checked the amount of sites I check daily to obtain news on domestic and foreign issues…I check between 8 and 12 a day! It is very time consuming, but it was just something that had become part of my normal routine to prepare for the day. Now with my new reading bringing me all my favorite news, I feel free! I can go to one site and by “magic” all my news feeds are in one place. I feel like I have discovered some sort of secret. It is simple. It is useful. It will save me time and give me instant access to all the news I could ever need. Now back to add more sites to my reader and clicking a few more RSS symbols : )

Article in “The Nation” this week

I encourage students to read as many publications as they can and I find most of them actually read REAL news sources. Not the printed kind but the online kind. I found an article I just had to share. Of course, I found it in the print version of they weekly journal and then had to go online to find the electronic version. It is about the fight for equal access to the Internet – or what many people refer to as digital democracy. Should the FCC take a strong stand to regulate the Internet to be used by the public and not private companies? Should it be regulated the same as TV and radio? Hope this article gets you thinking.

For Digital Democracy, The Nation

The Editors | August 26, 2010

Americans will be forgiven for presuming that the fight to maintain equal access to the Internet, or “net neutrality,” could not possibly be as consequential as our wrangling over matters economic, social and military. It’s hard to get charged up for a fight on behalf of “neutrality.” Yet if citizens do not engage—and fast—decisions made now about how we communicate could warp every political debate in the future. This is why tech-savvy activists are so unsettled by an arrangement between Google and Verizon to subdivide the Internet in a manner that serves their corporate purposes but cheats the promise of digital democracy.

Google and Verizon want the FCC and Congress to allow media giants to transform wireless communications into a digital version of a bad cable TV package. Instead of a free and open Internet that will take Americans where they want to go—thanks to the longstanding neutrality principle, which guarantees equal access to all websites and applications—the Google-Verizon deal would permit Internet service providers to speed up access to some content while leaving the rest behind. Such “pay for priority” would allow big business to buy speed, quality and other advantages—which would not be merely commercial. Now that the Supreme Court has afforded corporations electioneering rights equal to those of citizens, decisions about how we communicate have a profound political component to them.

Imagine if BP could pay to have its messaging dominate digital discussion about the best policies for regulating offshore drilling and carbon emissions—to such an extent that searches for information about “clean energy” would steer straight to corporate spin. This is not a conspiracy theory; big media companies have already barred content about political issues, as Verizon did when it blocked a text-messaging application developed by NARAL Pro-Choice America. With Google in the game, the threat expands exponentially. If its deal with Verizon is allowed, the coalition of consumer, civil rights and advocacy groups argues, “it would divide the information superhighway, creating new private fast lanes for the big players while leaving the little guy stranded on a winding dirt road.” Worse still, the coalition explains, allowing corporations to write the rules would turn the FCC into a “toothless watchdog, left fruitlessly chasing complaints and unable to make rules of its own.”

That scenario could strangle the Internet’s civic and democratic promise while supercharging corporate dominance of the digital discourse about our nation’s future. But it doesn’t have to happen. The most wired members of Congress, led by Democrats like Edward Markey and Anna Eshoo, have urged the FCC to reassert its authority—by altering flawed Bush-era classifications that narrowed regulator options—and define broadband as a telecommunications service. Such a move would restore the legal framework for net neutrality and protect the rights of citizens and consumers. Markey gets it exactly right when he says, “No private interest should be permitted to carve up the Internet to suit its own purposes. The open Internet has been an innovation engine that has helped power our economy, and fiber-optic fast lanes or tiers that slow down certain content would dim the future of the Internet to the detriment of consumers, competition, job creation and the free flow of ideas.” The FCC must move immediately and comprehensively to assure that the public interest, as opposed to corporate greed, defines our digital destiny.

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It’s a start!

Wow – did I really just create a BIG, BAD, PERSONAL, blog? I feel so very impressed with myself. Well, not really. After learning all the things about Web 2.0 over the past couple days I feel slightly overwhelmed and not as young as I used to feel. I remember learning what a blog was in college and never having the desire to actually create one myself – I always though, who would ever actually read it? Now that I am learning more and more about the way learning is changing and how quickly students are changing, I am realizing that LOTS of people read blogs every single moment of the day. They might be about food, entertainment, or better yet, they may actually be relevant to teaching and learning! We can all learn from each other. I am looking forward to opening my eyes to all the ways new technology can help me and my students! I must help them use these tools before they are left behind…kind of like I was before the past few days of learning…and now I am even sharing.


How will I help my students become more connected using Web 2.0?

What do they already know and what are they already using?

Can I “invade” their space? Would they welcome learning coming into the spaces they are already using to research and connect with each other?

How can I learn more about my content area and teaching methodology in general through all these exciting new tools?

Where do I even start?

Any answers or thoughts are greatly appreciated. I used to think I was a young and pretty “cool” teacher until I realized I will only be effective if I am the one teaching my students how to navigate these tools and this new style of learning…so, it’s back to the drawing board. I am possibly feeling “semi-young” and “not-so-cool.” But – I will get there!! I am armed with an open-mind, the internet, and the desire to become the best educator (and student) I can possibly be.

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