Class notes: education and the state of the union

Feb 15, 2013

Credit PaulSteinJC

Obama on preschool funding, career/technical education

President Barack Obama called for publicly funded preschool programs during his State of the Union address this week, saying early childhood education would help more children succeed in school. He also suggested that more high schools should offer technical degrees or certificates so that students can go immediately into the workplace when they graduate.

Obama called on high schools to redesign their programs “so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.” He suggested that a program similar to Race to the Top would offer rewards to schools pioneering innovative approaches to teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

President releases college cost scorecard

Also in the State of the Union, the president mentioned a college scorecard, which allows students to compare the price of different colleges online. He said colleges must control “the soaring cost of higher education,” and he called on Congress play a more active in role in the quest for better college affordability. Obama urged Congress to change the Higher Education Act to make value a factor in student aid eligibility.

“Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid,” Obama said.

Brown hikes tuition

Speaking of college costs, Brown University announced a four percent increase in tuition for the 2013-2014 academic year. That puts tuition and fees, including room and board, at more than $57,000. Brown is also increasing its financial aid budget by 5.6 percent. In other news, Brown’s governing board has approved the creation of a School of Public Health. It will be the third professional school at Brown, joining Alpert Medical School and the School of Engineering.

But that’s not all! Brown has also decided to extend student health care to cover gender reassignment surgery. The New York Times took note of the move, reporting that other schools are following suit. A total of 36 colleges now cover sex changes, according to advocates quoted in the article.

Achievement First names first principal

Charter school chain Achievement First has selected a principal for its first elementary school in Rhode Island, slated to open this August. The group settled on Morgan Carter, a founding teacher at Amistad Academy, Achievement First’s flagship school in Connecticut.

Carter is a graduate of the University of Washington in Seattle and holds a master’s degree in Elementary Literacy and Mathematics from Walden University. She says in a statement, “I am excited to work in Providence with a team that is dedicated to student-centered learning.”

Achievement First generated controversy when it sought to open a network of schools in Rhode Island. Some parents and teachers expressed concerns that the schools would take motivated students and tuition money away from existing public schools, but the proposal ultimately got a green light from state officials after re-locating from Cranston to Providence.

Achievement First says 700 students have signed up for a lottery to fill 176 Kindergarten and first grade seats. The lottery will give preference to low income families, and it is open to students from Providence, Cranston, Warwick and North Providence.