All Articles Tagged "education"

And Another One: Munira Khalif Accepted To All 8 Ivy League Schools

April 8th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the upcoming generation is hopeless. In addition to Kwasi Enin last year and Harold Ekeh, this year, Munira Khalif, a high school senior from Minnesota, has achieved the rare and distinct honor of being accepted to all eight Ivy League schools as well as several other prestigious colleges.

The 17-year-old with Somalian immigrant parents, who attends Mounds Park Academy, said that she was surprised to learn she’d been accepted to all the schools.

But she shouldn’t have been. With accomplishments on her resume that include founding a non profit organization, lobbying for legislation against child marriage, becoming a teen adviser for the United Nations’ Girl Up campaign and being a spoken word artist, Khalif had the skills and more importantly, the passion to be an asset to any college or university.

According to Minnesota’s Star Tribune, her teachers and peers describe her as a young woman who doesn’t just talk about it, she is about it. They say she exudes confidence and grace in ways people twice her age have yet to master. But in the midst of being amazing, she still makes time for sleepovers and cooking with her friends.

Her nonprofit organization, Lighting the Way, which she began as a freshman in high school, seeks to help the youth of East Africa buy making education accessible. The organization raised $30,000 for scholarships and to aid with sanitation problems.

As an adviser for the Girl Up campaign, she engaged her peers to send letters to Congress fighting against child marriage.

During her sophomore year, Khalif was invited to perform her spoken-word piece in honor of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who survived a Taliban attack to go on and fight for the rights of girls to be educated.

But of all the accolades she’s received, Khalif is most proud of being honored with the U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education’s Youth Courage Award. An distinction recognizes young people who are fighting for universal education. She was one of nine students chosen from around the world.

“That was the highlight of my entire high school career. I was just bewildered.”

So where did Khalif develop her passion for education?

It was her parents, who had to flea from Somali’s civil war in 1992.

“Having parents who fled from civil war changes your entire perspective. That makes you realize the opportunities you have in the United States and use those to its fullest extent.”

In Somalia, Khalif said her maternal grandfather was adamant that his daughters received an education when many girls did not have the same opportunities.

“Because my mom was able to receive this gift of education, I felt I had an obligation to give this gift back.”

In addition to her activism, Khalif spoke of being inspired by W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folks and the poetry of Saul Williams. She uses these mediums as a way to “find a place as a minority in the United States.”

While Khalif’s hard work over the years has afforded her with the luxury of many options, she’s not certain which school she will eventually attend. Right now, she is sure that she wants to continue her activism, her poetry and return to Somalia one day.

“I want to be a part of the dialogue back home. There’s a lot of peace-building happening in Somalia and I want to be a part of that when I get older.”

Khalif’s Spanish teacher Kari Kunze said, “A lot of people say they are going to change the world and they have the best intentions. But Munira is somebody who probably will change the world.”

Congratulations to this young lady! We’re sure this won’t be the last time we hear her name.

Students Claim New Anti-Cheating Technology Invades Privacy

April 6th, 2015 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Anti-Cheating Technology


Rutgers University and other academic institutions are using a monitoring program, Proctortrack, that reveals  if a student is cheating on an exam for their online course.

Betsey Chao, a senior at Rutgers told The New York Times, she had to download the software on her computer and it uses her webcam to scan her features and verify her identity before her exams. During the exam, ProctorTrack flashes a red warning band to notify her that it is monitoring her computer activity and recording a video of her. It also shows a live image of Chao or any student who uses the tracking device during an exam. Proctortrack also surveys if students have opened apps or web browsers during online exams.

Although Chao understands the purpose of the program, she believes it to be a bit “intrusive.” Though she feels this way, many colleges and universities have begun using Proctortrack and other programs like it to create legitimacy behind their online degrees to prospective students and employers.

Besides creating integrity for their academic brand, institutions are trying to remain competitive as the online academic learning community rakes in $32 billion or more in the United States. Once students finish their exams, professors have to log in to review the video clips of their students taking their exams.

On the subject matter, Richard Novak, Rutgers University’s Vice President for Continuing Studies and Distant Learning told the NY Times in an email: “From an institutional point of view, use specifically of Proctortrack is not mandatory, and traditional face-to-face proctoring has been an acceptable alternative all along.” Novak also shared it is up to the academic unit to charge students to use extra materials for courses.

In order to lessen students’ concerns, the corporation who makes Proctortrack, Verificient shared on their site that it doesn’t share students’ computer data with third parties and deletes their data after 30-to-60 days. Students can also remove the software from their computer once they have uploaded their exams. As the online learning industry expands, Chao and other students fear academic institutions will blur the definition of test-taking and cheating by invading the privacy of students.

Do you think universities should trust their students to be honest while test-taking or is it better to use tech devices that will track their computer activity?

Proctortrack Demo from Rahul Siddharth on Vimeo.

White House Launches “Let Girls Learn” Global Education Initiative

March 5th, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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Education is the single-most important civil rights issue we face today. #BlackHistoryMonth #ReachHigher

A photo posted by First Lady Michelle Obama (@michelleobama) on

A new program just announced by President Obama will help get tens of millions of young girls in school globally. And First Lady Michelle Obama its hitting the road to promote it. First she’ll travel to Japan and Cambodia later this month.

Obama is pursuing his “Let Girls Learn” initiative because more than 60 million girls are being denied schooling for a variety of reasons.

“We’re making it clear to any country that’s our partner or wants to be our partner that they need to get serious about increasing the number of girls in school,” Obama said.

And according to Mrs. Obama, her office and the Peace Corps will work jointly to highlight community-based solutions.

The Peace Corps’s  “Let Girls Learn” program will begin in Albania, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Georgia, Ghana, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Togo, and Uganda, reports The Huffington Post.

Mrs. Obama will travel alone to Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan, from March 18-20 and Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia from March 21-22.

Mrs. Obama said she wants the initiative to inspire girls in the United States.

“I want our young people to be awed by these girls, but more importantly I want them to be inspired and motivated by these girls,” she said.

San Fran School District Wants More Black Teachers

February 10th, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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The San Francisco Unified School District is making a move that it hopes will help close the achievement gap between students of different races. They will start hiring more Black teachers.

“The research shows that students of color do better on standardized tests and have a stronger sense of self-efficacy when they have adults in their schools who look like them,” Swen Ervin, a SFUSD human capital specialist in charge of recruiting more teachers of color to the district, told The Huffington Post. “And I think teachers, more than anyone, provide an image of success for students.”

According to Ervin, maybe even more importantly is having more Black teachers teaching students who are not of color.

“For white students, having more teachers of color in their schools provides them with an image of what people of color are that can go along way to dispelling a lot of stereotypes that they might pick up,” he said.

There is definitely a need for change in the district. Data from the 2013-2014 school year shows that the lowest performers on standardized test have one of the highest dropout rates. According to KQED, these students make up eight percent of SFUSD while only 5.5 percent of the district’s teachers are Black.

SFUSD has been taking other actions to improve the achievement of Black students in the district. At the beginning of the year, the district hired its first special assistant for African-American achievement. The district created this new position after it decided to participate in President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

And at the end of last year, a group of SFUSD librarians launched a “Teaching #BlackLivesMatter” online resource that compiles materials teachers can use while discussing the movement in the classroom.  This move came during the same month the Board of Education approved a resolution implementing ethnic studies in all of the district’s high schools.

On another front, SFUSD recently revealed successful results in its push to reduce the disproportionate number of suspensions among Black students. The figure dropped 17 percent from last year due to such proactive efforts as daily check-ins and rewards for good behavior.

Do you think hiring more Black teachers will result in higher achievement by students of color?

Yes, He Can! DC To Invest $20 Million In Minority Male Students

January 29th, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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Washington D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson has announced it will invest $20 million to support programs for the city’s men of color. “This includes opening an all-boys college preparatory high school in 2017 under the ‘Empowering Males of Color’ initiative,” reports The Huffington Post.

The funding will come from private and public sources and then D.C. Public Education Fund is also trying to raise additional money.

Currently Black and Latino boys comprise 43 percent of all students enrolled in D.C.’s public schools and the graduation rates, reading and math scores, and attendance of minority boys are all lagging. In fact, by fourth grade, almost half of the city’s Black and Latino male students are reading below grade level. Only about a third of the District’s Black male students are proficient in reading and math, compared with nearly 66 percent of non-Black or Latino students, according to DC CAS scores.

Forty-eight percent of Black male students and 57 percent of Hispanic male students graduate in four years, versus 66 percent of their other classmates.

The push to help minority male students is a citywide effort headed by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser.

Detroit’s Schools Get Boost From New Arts Program–And Madonna

January 27th, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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@DetroitAcademy is bringing education to the children of Detroit! Help me get them a building of their own! Please donate as i have!!! #detroit ❤️#livingforlove

Μια φωτογραφία που δημοσίευσε ο χρήστης Madonna (@madonna) στις

With Detroit still reeling from its financial troubles, its school system can use all the help it gets. Many of what some considered “nonessential” subjects in schools, such as music, arts, even physical education, are sorely underfunded or have been cut all together.

But now some local companies and artists have joined together with an art nonprofit to give students an artistic outlet.

“Detroit-based custom-apparel company MyLocker and graffiti artist Antonio “Shades” Agee have partnered up with Art Road, the nonprofit seeing to ensure art instruction in Detroit public schools, to create ‘Inspired by Detroit: Shades,’ a specially curated collection of Shades’ street-art images, which have been designed for apparel,” reports The Root.

A quarter of the sales will go directly to Art Road, which gives art classes to about 1,500 students in three Detroit public schools.

“It’s kind of like a full circle. Here’s Shades [putting] art all over the place, here’s MyLocker putting art on garments and here’s Art Road teaching art in a depressed city that has taken art out of the curriculum because of budget cuts, and … it all kind of lined up perfectly. It made sense to put together this shop that features Shades’ art and have the proceeds benefit Art Road,” MyLocker CEO Robert Hake told The Root.

In January, Art Road hosted a Shades Art Day at Detroit’s Charles Wright Academy of Arts and Science to launch of the collection.

It gave the students the opportunity to see that there is real job opportunity in art. “Relating it to [the fact] that they can have a job in the future, they can have a job as an artist, designer, wherever their hearts take them… Everything’s kind of simplified for them, and so the outlook is awesome,” said MyLocker’s creative director, Stephanie Battaglia.

The program is proving effective. According to Hofgartner, Kimberly Davis, and the principal of Charles Wright where the program is being offered, attendance has increased at the school on Mondays and Wednesdays, when Art Road is there.

“If things you love are cut out of school, why come [to school], if you’re not having any fun?” Hofgartner pointed out. “That’s a quantifiable. Attendance has gone up because students don’t want to miss art.”

Even Madonna is concerned about Detroit’s schools. The Michigan-born singer just donated to one of the city’s school and posted the image above.

The Perils Of Sending Black Children To Predominantly White Schools

January 26th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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I have spent my life, living, working, loving and hating in largely Black enclaves. The one exception is the four years of my middle school, which was spent in a racially-mixed, but predominantly White, school in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.

My presence at the school was by chance. My neighborhood middle school, which served a predominantely Black, Hispanic and new immigrant Asian population, was severely overcrowded and underfunded. At the same time, the School District of Philadelphia, which was trying to mitigate the severity of a 40-year-old school desegregation case, decided that it would kill two birds with one stone by bussing a bunch of Black kids out of North Philly into White areas. According to the Philadelphia Public Notebook, at the height of the voluntary busing program, “some 14,000 students were bused to schools outside their neighborhoods to improve the schools’ racial diversity.” I was one of those pioneers who got the privilege to wake up extra early in the morning just to take a nearly hour-long bus ride in search of more equitable education opportunities.

While interacting with Hispanics and other new immigrants was nothing new to me, this was my first time actually meeting a bunch of White people, who weren’t just teachers or representatives from some government agencies. Needless to say, that I was excited about the new experience of meeting new kinds of people, particularly in their own spaces. And as I rode the yellow bus on my first day of school through this foreign neighborhood, I had all sorts of burning questions about the mysterious ways of White folks. Did they all live in big houses with live-in maids like on the the television show, Mr. Belvedere”? Did they really eat pumpkin pie during holiday meals instead of sweet potato pie? Did they skateboard and really say words like “gnarly” and “totally rad?” I would find the answers to those questions and more when the yellow bus finally stopped and dropped us off in front of Webster Middle School.

As I piled off the bus with the rest of the elementary school-aged Black and Hispanic kids, the first thing I noticed was that the neighborhood didn’t look that much different than the one we came from. Sure the streets were nicer and much cleaner and there were actual trees along the curb line. But the White people didn’t look as refined as the White people I’d seen on television. For one, they lived in rowhouses, just like we did in North Philly, and said weird phrases like “youse guys.” The boys were more obsessed with street hockey and the Philadelphia Flyers than anything having to do with skateboarding. While the girls were into dodging plume clouds of Aqua Net and mimicking hair bands. Plus, just about the entire student body smoked cigarettes. Fourth grader, fifth grader, sixth grader, didn’t matter. White kids were pulling out whole packs of Marlboros and chain smoking them up right outside of the school’s front entrance. In short, these White people were kind of rough.

In spite of White people being nothing like I had imagined them to be, it was still a different world than where I came from. And it would get even more different during my first gym class. The teacher, who was handing out assigned seats on the gym floor, told me to take a squat across from a White girl with a brownish-blonde mullet and the stench of a half-smoked Marlboro Light on her clothes. We stared at each other briefly before she smiled and waved at me. Of course, I smiled and waved back. And when she asked for my name, I told her that too before inquiring about hers. It was Dani.

“Hi Dani,” I said grinning from ear to ear. We sat quietly for a few moments, staring and smiling at each other. I thought for sure that I had made a new friend and had already begun daydreaming about all the fun girlfriend things we were going to do together. She was going to teach me who “youse” was and I going to introduce her to some real pie. But then, in the most sincerest of tones my new friend asked me, “Why don’t you go back to Africa, Black monkey?”

I was stunned. For one, she was still wearing that same warm smile she had when she asked me my name. And secondly, while I had heard of such racism in those old Civil Rights movies, which used to come on the local PBS station, I truly thought those days were over. Mom never once mentioned the possibility of racism; she just told me to behave and not embarrass her in front of the teachers. And Mr. Belvedere damn sure never said anything about it neither. In all the planning and rehearsing I had done that morning before school to prepare me for my close encounter with the pale kind, I had no idea of what I would do in event someone said something racist.

Still, I wasn’t no punk. So I said the first thing that came to my mind: “Shut up, b**ch! Why don’t you go back to the North Pole.” Because I was 11-years-old and from North Philly (hence the familiarity with cursing a person out with ease) and the North Pole was the whitest place I could think of. She laughed and shook her head at the ridiculousness of my comeback. And so did some of the other White kids, who had been listening and mocking me also nearby. I however shrank a bit into myself…

That incident came across my mind after reading the story of the little brown skin girl who too was also forced to shrink after facing similar degradation. According to the Grio, Tomeka Fisher was left speechless when she recorded a video of her 4-year-old daughter Londyn crying her little eyes out after being told by her class mates that they didn’t want to be her friend because they didn’t like Black people. If you can stomach it, you can watch the heart-wrenching video here. Fisher had also posted the video to her Facebook page with the caption: “My 4-year-old is crying her heart out, and so am I. I don’t know what to do or say.”

Nor would I. Already scarred by the Africa incident, among others, I probably wouldn’t handle that entire situation very well. And to be totally honest, I probably wouldn’t even allow my kid to be put into that situation in the first place. And not that I’m blaming Fisher for any of this at all. Just like my mom, and so many other Black parents who have steered their children towards more “diverse” educational experiences, the end goal is to better position our children so they have a greater chance in a society, which is still deeply rooted in White supremacy. With that said, how better of a position can we really be putting our children in if it makes them feel ashamed of their color and accomplices to their own oppression?

After the Africa incident, things at Webster got better. And I actually started to make friends with some of my other White classmates. I found out that in spite of our differences, we also had some things in common, like our love for “Mr. Belvedere.” However our friendships were definitely on their cultural terms. I couldn’t even sway them with a slice of grandmas homemade sweet potato pie. And I often felt like I had to overcompensate when I was around them. I had even gotten to the point that I was rocking the “Stairway to Heaven” bangs and talking about “youse” people. Although I had lots of White friends, culturally I felt isolated. And after a while, I started hanging out more with the bussed-in Black kids at lunch and recess. They too felt some kind of way about their new friends…

The Pros And Cons Of The White House Proposal To Make College Free For 2 Years

January 12th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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College Free For 2 Years

Source: Corbis

By now you might have heard the news that President Obama wants to make college free, at least for the first couple of years.

According to the fact sheet on White, the America’s College Promise proposal aims to provide free college, up to two years, for “responsible” American students. The proposal is estimated to save 9 million students, on average, $3,800 in tuition per year.

As the White House writes about the “whys” of this proposal:

By 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s ecegree and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree. Forty percent of college students are enrolled at one of America’s more than 1,100 community colleges, which offer students affordable tuition, open admission policies, and convenient locations. They are particularly important for students who are older, working, need remedial classes, or can only take classes part-time. For many students, they offer academic programs and an affordable route to a four-year college degree. They are also uniquely positioned to partner with employers to create tailored training programs to meet economic needs within their communities such as nursing, health information technology, and advanced manufacturing.”

According to the proposal, students with a GPA of 2.5 or above and who are already attending college half-time will be eligible to have their tuitions waived. Likewise, the program aims to work with community colleges to help them offer “programs that either (1) are academic programs that fully transfer to local public four-year colleges and universities, giving students a chance to earn half of the credit they need for a four-year degree, or (2) are occupational training programs with high graduation rates and that lead to degrees and certificates that are in demand among employers.”

The proposal doesn’t say specifically how it plans to pay for the tuition waivers, which is estimated to cost $60 million over a decade. However, the White House writes that it is hoping to partner with interested states and will reimburse them for seventy-five percent of tuition costs for each individual student.

Admittedly, I haven’t been the biggest fan of all of the president’s policies; however, I must tip my hat to him for taking on such an ambitious proposal. If he is able to pull this off, he might be the most socially progressive president in our history. And that is a big “if.”

First, what I do like about the program is that it acknowledges what has long been a widely-known, but closely-held secret among many students and even faculty at four-year institutions: the first two-years of college are kind of bullshit. Okay, not exactly…

But there is a reason why most college guidance counselors advise students, particularly those who have yet to decide their majors, to explore and sample a variety of disciplines in your first couple of years in college before committing to a program in your final two years.

Personally speaking, I loved my humanities, political science and sociology classes. They added much needed perspective to my learning experience. However, there were other classes, which felt more like refreshers from high school. And while those classes were also helpful, I didn’t feel like they should have cost the same amount, per credit, as classes, which were more directly related to my major.

And this is important to note, as my tuition costs for the first two years of classes, which were unrelated to my major, started around $12 thousand. (That number includes on-campus living expenses.) That was the cost in the late 90s. Well over a decade later and the price of higher education has risen to astronomical levels. Even worse than the cost of college is the questionable job market, which in spite of its recovery, fails to produce sustainable incomes to college students upon graduation. This is important to highlight as American students are currently over $1 trillion dollars in debt and it is starting to have an effect on the overall economy, according to this article in Time magazine. Therefore, this proposal has the potential to make a four-year educational experience more cost-effective, which means less student loans.

Not to mention the proposal also seeks to make community college credits more easily transferrable to four-year institutions. As this report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education notes, both “affordability and transfers” have long been major obstacles to four-year degree programs for over the 40 percent of all American students currently enrolled at community college.

Of course, this proposal is contingent on Congress’ approval and as Ben Miller, senior educational policy analyst at the New America Foundation tells the LA Times, “Anything involving more money to pay for things is going to be difficult in this Congress.”

Likewise there are concerns about the impact such a change will have on cheapening standards at traditional four-year universities and colleges. Public eduction advocate Diane Ravitch highlighted some of the opposition to the White House’s proposal on her personal blog. In particular, she references a letter she received from a college faculty member working at a university in Tennessee, which already offers free tuition for two years at community colleges. More specifically, the faculty member notes:

Here is a concrete example from my university, The University of Memphis (UofM), that should give a pause to the celebration of free higher education. Last year, shortly after the announcement of a $20 million cut to UofM’s budget, came the announcement of Tennessee Promise that offers free education to all TN residents at public community colleges. In my opinion, TN Promise is a perfect example for taking money away from high quality education (UofM, in this case), and use the extra funds to invest in low quality education (community colleges). Then this lower quality education is offered to the masses as a solution to their educational needs.

To make the high-to-low quality education transformation explicit, I remark that we at UofM are now pressured to start accepting lower level courses to our major requirements to “ease the transition of students from community colleges to our university.”

In addition to the questions of who will pay for it and the impact such a proposal will have on traditional four-year institutions, I do also wonder the impact this proposal will have specifically on historically Black colleges and universities. Recent federal changes to the Pell Grant and to student loan qualifications have been really tough on many HBCUs that largely serve an economically-insecure student body who rely on federal assistance. This proposal has the potential to financially cripple those institutions even more by transferring a big chunk of dollars into the hands of community colleges.

Hopefully, the White House can get those issues sorted before – and if – this becomes an actual program. Or else the old adage about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions might ring true…

Education For The Masses: Obama To Propose 2 Years Of Free Community College

January 9th, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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When Barack Obama was first campaigning for the job of President, he spoke often of wanting to offer free college education. Now, he has said in his upcoming State of the Union speech on January 20th he will make a proposal to make two years of community college free for anyone willing to work for it.

Obama made the news public in a video message released by the White House. According to Obama, he wants to make community college accessible for everyone.

It sounds like a pretty good deal. Obama is proposing that  students who attend college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make continuous progress toward completing their programs would have their tuition eliminated.

Inspired by similar programs in Tennessee and Chicago, the White House aims to do the partnership with various states. “If all states participate, an estimated 9 million students could benefit. A full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition a year,” reports Business Insider.

Thoughts on this?

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover: Surprisingly Brainy Celebrities in Hollywood

November 20th, 2014 - By Meg Butler
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Actors and musicians don’t always have a reputation for being super-smart. But these surprisingly brainy celebrities are talented and highly intelligent.

Image Source:

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Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys is more than just a pretty face and a beautiful voice. She graduated as Valedictorian from her high school at 16 and turned down a scholarship to Columbia University to pursue a career in music.