Monthly Archives: July 2011

Learning Is Universal

Aristide Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger Newark Mayor Cory Booker answers questions during his visit to the media and broadcast class. Students of Upward Bound, a federal summer program to expose lower income teens to the college environment, met Mayor Cory Booker as part of a mock interview for young, aspiring journalists while at NJIT. (Aristide Economopoulos/

N.J. teens in Upward Bound program quiz Newark Mayor Cory Booker on education, community

NEWARK — Looking more like college graduates at a career fair than high schoolers at summer camp, the group of teens from Newark, Irvington and East Orange were dressed in their Sunday best milling around a conference hall at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker then walked in, jumped on a table, cracked a few jokes, and delivered one of his high-impact speeches. The students were part of Upward Bound — a decades-old, federal program that helps talented teens from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in high school and enroll — and complete — college.

The event was part of a media class some of the students took during the five-week program while living on NJIT’s campus.

“Let’s make a rule right now, you guys can ask me about anything you want,” Booker told them. “From what I think about the debt ceiling debate that’s going on in Washington to why I’m not married.”

But the students, ages 15 to 17, preferred to quiz the mayor on education and their community. They asked about his support of charter schools, his plans for Newark and his advice to them. The mock interview quickly turned into a pep talk, with Booker telling students to watch less TV, find true friends and pursue their ambitions with self-discipline.

“I liked the passion part of his speech,” said Annabel Bryant, 16, referring to Booker’s advice to chase vocation rather than money. “You should do what you love, not just follow other people.”

Bryant, who was born in Liberia and lives in Newark, says she wants to go to college and become a pediatrician. She has been an Upward Bound student for three years and saw her Bs and Cs turn into mostly As.

Jasmine James, 16, also of Newark, said she appreciated the mayor’s insistence on staying focused and pushing hard. Booker told the students he started writing down is life goals as a sophomore in high school and that while a student at Stanford University he went to the library until 11 p.m. every weekend night, before joining his friends at parties. Upward Bound’s students summer schedule is also intense — with classes from 8.25 a.m. to 5.10 p.m. and evening study time. The students go home every weekend.

“You have to do hard things to achieve your goals,” said James, whose mother dropped out of school when she had her and is now going back. “And when your goal finally comes it will be worth you studying at night and all that hard work.”

Upward Bound — launched in 1965 by the Department of Education — has supported hundreds of thousands of students through high school. The program offers academic assistance to low-income students who are the first in their families to go to college, including on-campus summer programs and year-long Saturday classes, as well as support after the students graduate high school.

NJIT is one of 11 New Jersey universities who participated in 2010 — serving a total of 923 students.

“We make sure that not only they enroll in college but that they graduate college,” said Anthony Culpepper, assistant director of Upward Bound at NJIT and a 1976 alum of the program. Culpepper, who grew up in Newark, said he used to walk across the NJIT campus on his way home from Central High School but that he never thought he would one day go to college. He went to Rutgers University.

“This program makes you see what college is about. Students get to live a campus life just like college students.”

Tyler Hughes, 16, of Irvington, agreed.

“The work is hard but I think it really pushes you towards college, you can see into the future,” he said, adding that he hopes to study physics, mechanical or audio engineering. “My friends would call me crazy or ridiculous for doing this, they believe I’m wasting time. But they’re hanging around the house doing nothing while I get to hear the mayor speak.”

Although an institution of sort, Upward Bound — which is subject to discretionary funding voted in congress — is regularly threatened by cuts. In 2010, the program served 77,000 students nationwide. But that year’s $306 million budget was cut to $293 for 2011. Upward Bound spends about $ 5,000 per year on each student.

“The need far exceeds what we’re funded to serve. We get to only about 10 percent of the eligible population,” said Lavelle Burr-Alexander, director of NJIT’s Center for Pre-College Programs, which hosts 145 Upward Bound students on a $250,000 annual budget. “Nothing is guaranteed. Every year the budget is at risk. Every year we run into the potential of not having the program.”

But to the hundreds of thousands Upward Bound has affected and continues to affect, the program is life-changing.

“At first it was brutal. Imagine, it’s your first year in high school and you have to come here and do even more work?” said Raymond Clinkscale, 21, of Edison. Clinkscale stuck to it, graduated from high school and, recently, from Kean University. He returned to Upward Bound first as an assistant teacher and resident tutor and now as an instructor in the media class.

“You have to help students find their passions, show them things that they wouldn’t see on a regular basis,” Clinkscale said, adding that he made his students research Walter Cronkite. “When people see the same thing all the time, they think that’s all there is.”

CaseClosed2: What? No student asked Mayor Booker why he laid off so many police officers in the city of Newark and why the city is now so violent even in the downtown area?

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Posted by on July 31, 2011 in Education News


Groupon Gives Back

Groupon works with CPS for school supply donations
Chicagoans can fund kits for low-income students starting Tuesday

By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Tribune reporter

2:52 p.m. CDT, July 25, 2011
Chicago Public Schools is working with deal-of-the-day website Groupon, encouraging Chicagoans to donate back-to-school kits for needy kids.

Beginning Tuesday, donors can pledge in increments of $12 for the kits, which include glue, erasers, markers, storybooks, notebooks, rulers and pencils.

The district already plans to distribute 6,000 kits produced by Kits for Kidz, a Woodridge organization that helps provide low-cost school supplies for underprivileged children. Those kits, paid for by donations from other organizations, will be distributed at neighborhood festivals in communities with high rates of truancy — Englewood, Humboldt Park, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, Lawndale, Woodlawn and Austin.

Donors will be invited to make the pledge for kits beyond the initial 6,000 in Groupon’s daily email or on The offer will run through Thursday.

With more than 85 percent of CPS students coming from low-income families and more than 15,000 CPS students homeless, district officials hope city residents will help.

The first day of school for year-round, or Track E, schools is Aug. 8. The first day at schools that operate on a traditional schedule is Sept. 6.

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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Education News


Summer School Is Necessary

Studies show that kids lose ground on reading and math over the summer. (Shutterstock)

Why We Need Summer School

Low-income kids lose two months’ worth of learning each year: Jeff Smink

By Matt Cantor, Newser Staff

(Newser) – Americans hate to sacrifice the traditional “lazy summer”—but the long breaks are taking a toll on kids’ education. “Summers off are one of the most important, yet least acknowledged, causes of underachievement in our schools,” writes Jeff Smink in the New York Times. On average, students lose a month’s worth of learning per summer in reading and math. And “it disproportionately affects low-income students,” who lose two months’ worth. “This learning loss is cumulative, summer after summer.”

But such troubling statistics are “preventable,” Smink notes. “All students in high-need schools should have at least six weeks of full-day summer school,” including “individualized instruction, parental involvement and small classes.” And some cities are already taking action, moving away from the stigmatized “remedial model” of summer school. Instead, cities like Pittsburgh are offering summer education called “camp” and including summer activities like rowing. What’s more, a survey found that 83% of parents back using public money to fund these programs.

Article continues…

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Posted by on July 29, 2011 in Education News


The Workout Kid

Kid Fitness Video by The WorkOut Kid

A 10-year-old Georgia boy is already building a career as a fitness guru.

C.J. Sentor teaches fitness classes, has a fitness DVD, and does his own routines 3 times a week.
Workout Kid is a fun, high energy fitness video specifically designed for children and young adults looking to get and stay in shape. It’s led by the workout kid himself, CJ Senter – the youngest Fitness instructor ever! Prepare to to have fun as CJ and his friends motivate you and your family into action with his exclusive workout routine designed to sculpt your body, boost your energy and build your self esteem. Checkout out our website to purchase volume one of the DVD series:

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Posted by on July 28, 2011 in Education News


An Assembly Line Education Doesn’t Cut It

Education system failing new generations, author, educator says at UMaine

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

Posted July 26, 2011, at 6:15 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — An assembly line education system built during the past century is failing today’s students, according to author and education expert Tony Wagner.

It can be fixed, he said, but only through a major overhaul.

Wagner, who is the first Education Innovation Fellow at Harvard University’s Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, spoke to more than 200 state educators, administrators, school councilors and parents at the second day of the Maine Positive Youth Development Institute conference at the University of Maine. Wagner worked for 12 years as a teacher and principal.

Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen introduced Wagner, who was the keynote speaker for the day.

The conference, which wraps up Wednesday, is focused on advising administrators and educators on what needs to be done to keep students in the education system and give them the tools they need to get, keep and create jobs after graduation.

“Our schools are not failing, but our system … is obsolete,” Wagner said. “This generation is very differently motivated to learn and work.”

Since the one-room schoolhouse fell out of style, schools started to focus more and more on multiple-choice testing. It may have worked for this generation of students’ parents and grandparents, but technology has changed today’s students drastically, Wagner said.

The result of these shifts: Out of 65 countries tested during the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment for reading, science and math skills, U.S. students ranked 15th, 23rd and 32nd, respectively, according to Wagner.

“Technology is a double-edged sword,” he said. On the one hand, students are constantly connected to the Internet, and on the other, they’re constantly in communication and have resources to learn about the world around them.

Tom Tracy, executive director of Navigating the Real World, a newsletter and website focused on stories about students leaving high school for college or to enter the work force, attended the conference.

“The high school structure is the same as it was when I went,” Tracy said before the keynote speech, “but what else is the same 40 years later?”

A key to improving the education system, according to Wagner, is giving students room to experiment throughout school.

“There is no innovation without trial and error,” Wagner said. “Trial and error often involves failure.”

He said schools need to give students room to make mistakes, as long as they’re trying new ways of thinking and working.

He said creativity should be more important than grades to school administrations and educators. Employers don’t care about what you know. “What they care about is what you can do with what you know,” he said.

Wagner argued that in order to prevent economic disaster in the future, the nation needs to produce students who are constantly curious and trying to solve problems.

“If we kill curiosity, we kill innovation,” he said.

To foster this kind of learning, Wagner said schools need to become smaller, students need to have more contact with educators, and teachers need to move away from multiple choice to a more open-ended, problem-oriented style of teaching.

These are big changes that would need to start with small charterlike schools. Educators could learn from these “research schools” and pass information and strategies to larger schools over time, Wagner said.

If these changes don’t happen, Wagner foresees a “train wreck,” with more struggling students and a country scrambling to keep pace with the rest of the world. printed on July 27, 2011

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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Education News


Why Can’t A Black Student Be Valedictorian?

Arkansas HS Tells Black Student: “You Can’t Be Valedictorian”

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AR) – A high school southeast of Little Rock would not let a black student be valedictorian though she had the highest grade-point average, and wouldn’t let her mom speak to the school board about it until graduation had passed, the graduate claims in Federal Court.

Kymberly Wimberly, 18, got only a single B in her 4 years at McGehee Secondary School, and loaded up on Honors and Advanced Placement classes. She had the highest G.P.A. and says the school’s refusal to let her be sole valedictorian was part of a pattern of discrimination against black students.

Wimberly says that despite earning the highest G.P.A. of the Class of 2011, and being informed of it by a school counselor, “school administrators and personnel treated two other white students as heir[s] apparent to the valedictorian and salutatorian spots.”

Wimberly’s mother is the school’s “certified media specialist.” She says in the federal discrimination complaint that after her daughter had been told she would be valedictorian, the mother heard “in the copy room that same day, other school personnel expressed concern that Wimberly’s status as valedictorian might cause a ‘big mess.'”

McGehee Secondary School is predominantly white, and 46 percent African-American, according to the complaint. Bratton says that the day after she heard the “big mess” comment, McGehee Principal Darrell Thompson, a defendant, told her “that he decided to name a white student as co-valedictorian,” although the white student had a lower G.P.A.

Bratton says she tried to protest the decision to the school board, but defendant Superintendent Thomas Gathen would not let her speak, because she allegedly had “filled out the wrong form. Instead of ‘public comments,’ Gather [sic] said Bratton should have asked for ‘public participation.'” The superintendent told her she could not appeal his decision until the June 28 school board meeting; graduation was May 13.

(The superintendent’s name is spelled Gathen in the heading of the complaint, but is spelled Gather throughout the body of it.)
The last African-American valedictorian in McGehee School District was in 1989. Wimberly says the school discourages black students from taking honors and advanced placement classes, “by telling them, among other things, that the work was too hard.”

“Because of defendants’ continuous disparate treatment of African-American students, defendants’ actions toward the plaintiff can properly be classed as intentional,” the complaint states.

“Defendants did not support African-American students, and did not want to see Wimberly, an African-American young mother as valedictorian.

“But for Wimberly’s race, defendants would not have selected a student with a lower G.P.A. than Wimberly to also be a valedictorian.”

She seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations, and an injunction declaring her sole valedictorian of the school’s Class of 2011. She is represented by John Walker of Little Rock.

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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Education News


Teachers Taught How To Teach Black History

Associated Press Waldo E. Martin Jr., co-director of the National Endowment for the Humanities, lectures at Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute in Cambridge, Mass., while Kwame Dixon of Syracuse University (left), Melissa Stuckey of the University of Oregon (center), and Cheryl Carpenter of Alabama A & M University (right) listen earlierthis month. The three-week training at the Du Bois Institute is being taught by some of the nation’s top scholars in black history

Harvard training college teachers on black history

by Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — Every semester, Cheryl Carpenter tries to think of new ways to introduce Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” to her college students.
An English instructor at Alabama A&M, a historically black college in Normal, Ala., Carpenter said students sometimes are confused about the setting and context of the 1937 novel about an independent black woman’s quest for identity.
But after listening to Temple University history professor Bettye Collier-Thomas talk at a Harvard University program how she dove into dusty attics and forgotten archival material to research her book on black women leaders, Carpenter said she immediately came up with ideas to recreate visual scenes through her lectures.
Carpenter and around two dozen college teachers from around the country are participating this month in a Harvard program aimed at training professors to integrate more black history into their classrooms and research projects.
The “National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for College Teachers” at the university’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute brought the group to Cambridge for an intensive three-week program, including archival research, debates on history and lectures by some of the nation’s leading scholars in black studies.

This is amazing,” Carpenter said. “I’m not a historian. I teach English so I don’t go to the archives much. But the topics we’ve talked about cover so much and now I have so many ideas.”
Among those giving lectures were Pulitzer Prize winners Eric Foner and Steven Hahn.
“Very rare will these participants have access to so many scholars like this at one time,” said University of South Carolina history professor Patricia Sullivan, a co-director of the program. “And they see very quickly that the Civil Rights movement didn’t start in the 1950s. There’s a whole history that is overlooked and it’s not just about black history. It’s American history.”

Read more: The Paducah Sun – Harvard training college teachers on black history

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Posted by on July 25, 2011 in Education News