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Study finds NCLB waivers could be leaving some students behind

As federal education officials announced this week that states with waivers from No Child Left Behind would be given the opportunity to renew them, an education advocacy group said the waivers could be letting millions of at-risk students fall through the cracks.

“It appears to us that waivers could lead to fewer students of color receiving the support they need,” said Rufina Hernandez, executive director for the Campaign for High School Equity told The Huffington Post.

Her coalition of education reformers, civil rights activists and policy analysts studied the 34 states and District of Columbia that had received waivers from No Child Left Behind before April.

Since then, another six states, including New Hampshire and Maine, and a collection of districts from California have won waivers.

But while local leaders have praised the waiver as a chance to improve college and career readiness, and better target aid to struggling schools, the results of the Campaign for High School Equity study show students who are at the highest risk of dropping out– those from poor families, those whose native language is not English, those with learning disabilities and minority students– are often no longer tracked as carefully as they were under NCLB.

Read more about the study here.

What do you think about NCLB waivers? Are they a chance to better utilize limited resources? Or could struggling students be left behind? Share your thoughts!

Fidelity Investments “college savings indicator” shows parents falling short of savings goals

How prepared are you for paying for college?

If you’re like a lot of New Hampshire families, you might not be as prepared as you could be.

Fidelity Investments’ seventh annual College Savings Indicator found that 56 percent of New Hampshire families report that they have started saving for college, down from 60 percent in 2012.

On average, families saved $5,100 last year for their children’s college education.

Nationwide, saving seems to be on an upswing. Fidelity reported a 22 percent increase in the number of new 529 college savings accounts opened in the first half of 2013, compared with accounts opened during the same time frame last year. Average account balances are also up, by about 8 percent.

Still, despite committing to saving, the report found that parents are still falling short of their goals.

Nationwide, parents plan to pay for 62 percent of the total cost of college, but are only on track to cover just one-third of that savings goal.

How are you saving for college? And are you asking your students to get involved? Share you thoughts here.

Obama talks college affordability in New York, announcing plans to link federal aid, tuition rates

As the cost of college rises across the nation, what is President Barack Obama’s plan to help keep higher education accessible and affordable for students?

Publicly shaming colleges and universities into keeping their prices low, apparently.

Speaking at the University of Buffalo Thursday, Obama said the middle class is being unfairly priced out of the higher education market.

“Colleges are not going to just be able to keep on increasing tuition year after year and passing it on to students,” he told an enthusiastic audience of about 7,200 students and others in the university’s auditorium, according to a story by The Washington Post. “We can’t price the middle class and everybody working to get into the middle class out of college.”

The president said rising prices at colleges were partly driven by the more than $150 billion handed out in federal assistance to students, and that colleges that allowed tuition to soar should be penalized by getting less aid for their students. Colleges that hold down their costs should get a larger share of federal dollars.

To this end, Obama announced plans to create a federal rating system that would allow parents and students to easily compare colleges. He said he would urge Congress to pass legislation to link student aid to the rating system.

Obama also recognized Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America during his comments at the New York university, saying its competency-based model would help to save students money.

Officials from the University System of New Hampshire praised the president’s remarks Thursday evening, saying the state colleges and universities had done their part to keep college costs low, freezing tuition for students over the next two years.

“The University System of New Hampshire has recognized the need for affordability, which is why we offer the state’s most affordable bachelor’s degree at Granite State College and have frozen in-state tuitions at all of our institutions for the next two years,” USNH Chancellor Dr. Todd Leach said in a statement.

What do you think about the president’s plan to keep college affordable for students? Share your thoughts here.

Eighth grade test from 1912 goes viral

For those of you who found the fourth grade fractions quiz challenging (myself included), this eighth grade test from 1912 is sure to be a stumper.

The test, on display at a Kentucky museum, gained some viral fame this weekend after it was picked up by ABC News and shared. Getting the most attention: the level of knowledge eighth graders were expected to have a century ago.

Would you be able to pass this test?

Are you smarter than a fourth grader?

Think you’re smarter than a fourth grader?

Well, now you can know for sure. Check out this short quiz from, which lets you test your fractions skills and find out how you compare to an average American fourth grader taking a standardized test.

I received a 4 out of 5 (it’s harder than it looks!).

How did you do?

New young adult novel turns programming into magic

Wondering how to get a young girl (or boy, for that matter) interested in computer science and programming?

Try a new young adult book called ‘Codecrafter,’ written by Erica Sanbothe. The book combines the magic and sorcery of Harry Potter with the computer programming of a science class.

The book’s main character, Tagglinde, is the young daughter of a lord, who must learn sorcery to defeat her enemies. The only catch: programming is sorcery and code makes spells.

Read more about the book at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Should high school students get to sleep in?

Should high schoolers be allowed to sleep until 9 and get to school even later?

That’s what some education advocates believe.

About 40 percent of U.S. public high schools open before 8 a.m., according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, with just 15 percent starting 8:30 a.m. or later.

In districts where early starts are necessary because the same bus does multiple runs for high school, middle school and elementary students, teens often get the early shift.

But while some say this is hurting attendance in early morning classes, and student performance, others say it would too complicated to change start times for high schoolers, interfering with sporting events and other extracurriculars, teens’ work schedules, and even a teenager’s ability to pick up a younger sibling after school.

Read more about the debate here, then share your thoughts. Should high schools start later than elementary and middle schools? Or should schools stick with the schedules they’ve traditionally used?

Senate student loan deal would generate billions in profit

The U.S. Senate approved a bill this week that will reduce student loan interest rates, for now.

Under the law, students and their parents would borrow at interest rates annually determined by the U.S. government’s cost to borrow for a 10-year period, rather than at rates set by Congress. Borrowers taking out loans for the upcoming school year would enjoy significantly lower rates than last school year.

But that could all change as the economy improves and interest rates rise. Undergrads are forecast to pay more interest than in the most recent school year as soon as 2016.

The change in law is expected to generate $185 billion in profit over the next decade. That figure, if annually averaged through 2023, would place the U.S. student loan program among the 20 most profitable public companies in the world.

Read more about the student loan changes approved by the Senate here.

Sallie Mae report finds parents’ income can’t keep up with rising college costs

College costs are driving decisions about which schools to attend, what the study and even where to live, a report from student loan giant Sallie Mae found this week.

The general public’s response to the findings: duh!

The rising cost of a higher education has been a hot topic in the United States for years. Over the last several weeks, especially, as Congress has debated what to do about rising interest rates on student loans, students from around the country have shared their stories of debt.

The findings in Sallie Mae’s annual report are nothing shocking, but they do provide some interesting statistics on just how large a burden the costs of higher education have become.

According to the study, parents no longer foot the largest portion of the college tuition bill, using grants and scholarships instead. Student loans come in third.

College spending per student, meanwhile, has actually gone down, from $24,000 in 2010 to $21,000 in 2012. But that doesn’t mean it costs less. Instead, some students are delaying their schooling, or only taking classes part-time, to help keep debt more manageable.

The average student borrowed $8,815 in federal loans. And while fewer students borrowed to pay for college, those who did took out larger loans, the report found.

The biggest shock in the data provided by Sallie Mae? The report found 57 percent of families had students living at home or with relatives, up from just 41 percent last year.

Learn more about the findings here.

Senate seems ready to make a deal on student loan interest rates

Students hoping to take out federal student loans in the coming year can breathe a little easier, at least for now.

A bipartisan compromise on student loans, expected to be put to a vote in the Senate next week, promises better deals for students and parents over the next few years, but could mean higher rates as the economy improves.

The deal ties interest rates on new loans to the financial markets. Under the deal, undergraduates this fall could borrow at a 3.9 percent interest rate. Graduate students would have access to loans at 5.4 percent, and parents would be able to borrow at 6.4 percent.

Those rates would climb as the economy improves and it becomes more expensive for the government to borrow money.

But while the compromise was met with mixed reviews, it would stop the doubling of rates on some student loans, which would cost students an extra $2,600.

Read more about the expected deal here.

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Danielle Curtis has a strong background in education and began covering the subject for The Telegraph in August 2012. She has previously worked as an education reporter in Rochester, NH.

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