Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Internet Access Turns School Buses Into Rolling Classrooms

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Internet Access Turns School Buses Into Rolling Classrooms

As part of his

economic-stimulus plan, President-elect Barack

Obama has
pledged to wire more schools to provide high-speed Internet access.

Ethan Clement, a student in rural Arkansas, has some advice:

Don't forget to wire the buses.

A program providing wireless Internet access on buses enables high-school senior Ethan Clement to do classwork online during long rides to and from school in rural Arkansas, and offers her advanced classes and
far-flung mentors.

Ethan, a 17-year-old high-school senior,
has been taking
math and
science classes online during her
90-minute ride to school as part of a
pilot project to
turn old-fashioned school buses into
cutting-edge classrooms.

The project, known as the

Aspirnaut Initiative,

"A Pilot Educational Initiative to
Elevate the
Mathematics and
Science Achievement of
Rural Community
K-12 Students Who
Commute on
Long Bus Rides to School"

gives some high-performing

students laptops or

video iPods and

sets them up with

online courses and

educational videos

during their

long bus rides

to and from school --

a round trip that often starts before dawn and ends after dark.

A number of participants have dropped out, unable to focus on studying as the bus bumps along gravel roads. But for students such as Ethan, the Aspirnaut Initiative has opened new worlds.

The two college professors who run the program have become her mentors. For the first time, she said, she feels confident that she can aspire to a career in science. "It's not just for big-city people with good connections," she said.

Mr. Obama's
pledge to
get more
classrooms online
comes at a time of broad experimentation in high-tech education.

From -
"...let's lay down
broadband lines
through the
heart of inner cities and
rural towns
all across America."

Small rural school districts have embraced distance learning, enrolling students in virtual classes teaching Spanish and other subjects they can't offer in person because of limited staff and funding.

Urban and suburban schools, too, are directing students to the Internet.

Elementary students learning about animal habitats check in daily with a live Webcam monitoring the Florida Everglades.

High-school literature students

set up blogs and

collaborative Web sites

*** This is EASY to do with Google Doc and Sites.

where they take on the persona of a favorite character and field questions from fellow students. In some districts, entire schools work together on online projects such as building a virtual museum.

"Technology tears down the walls of the classroom and allows students to interact with people they may find more interesting than their classroom teacher," said Don Knezek, who runs a nonprofit advocacy group called the International Society for Technology in Education.

The Aspirnaut Initiative extends that philosophy to the school bus.

The program was founded by Billy Hudson, who grew up skipping school to tend chickens and pick cotton on his family's farm in Grapevine, Ark., a sprawling and sparsely populated community of about 700 people. He was on the verge of dropping out altogether when a mentor kindled a love of science. Now a renowned kidney specialist, Mr. Hudson directs the Center for Matrix Biology at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

A few years ago, Mr. Hudson and his wife, Julie, a medical professor at Vanderbilt, went back to Grapevine with hopes of finding a promising student to mentor. They rode the bus -- and were shocked to learn that, thanks to school closings and district consolidations, some students now commute as long as 90 minutes each way, with nothing to do but gossip, fight or stare out the window. "I thought, 'There's got to be a better way,' " Mr. Hudson said.

The Hudsons put up $70,000 and raised another $70,000 from friends to turn three buses into rolling classrooms. Eight students selected by their teachers have received laptops to use on the bus and at home, and 10 more will be given laptops in January. An additional 20 use video iPods to watch National Geographic or Discovery Channel videos.

The Hudsons are seeking grants or public funds to expand the program statewide in Arkansas and to parts of Tennessee and Kentucky. They also are tinkering with the program in the original pilot site, the Sheridan School District, south of Little Rock. Big-screen monitors will soon be installed on buses so those students who choose not to take individual classes can watch science videos together, listening through wireless headphones.

"Time on the bus is a no-man's land," Mr. Hudson said. "This is our chance to intervene."

Some critics, however, see a danger in bus-based education.
Most students balance the computers on their laps, putting them in close contact with the radiation emitted by WiFi technology. In Britain, health officials have raised concerns about the effect of that radiation on children, warning that prolonged exposure -- via WiFi or cellphone usage -- could raise the risk for cancer or cognitive impairment.

A 2006 World Health Organization report found "no convincing scientific evidence" that wireless networks adversely affect health.

Aspirnaut Initiative's Ms. Hudson said that while they aren't aware of any strong evidence pointing to radiation risks from laptop use, they ask the students to work with their computers in a padded case while on the bus.

Another point of contention: The Aspirnaut Initiative might lull parents into accepting ever-longer bus rides for their children, said Rachel Tompkins, president of the Rural School and Community Trust. Her nonprofit fights the growing trend to close small rural districts and community schools.

Skeptics also point out that it takes a very motivated student to power through an advanced algebra class on a bouncy, noisy bus at 6 a.m. Vera Launius, who drives one route on the pilot project, said the kids all clamored to participate at first -- "until the new wore off." Now, half turn away the video iPods she hands out. (They come preloaded with educational videos and can be used only during the ride.) "They want music on there, instead of science," Ms. Launius said.

Students who do want to focus on their studies often complain that their friends don't make it easy. Said 8-year-old Lauren Taylor, "It's hard to concentrate when you have all these kids talking."

Still, Lauren loves the program. She has learned to use email and surf the Web. She is studying data analysis in an online math unit. Her mom, Vonda Taylor, was amazed when Lauren came home one day quoting facts about Pocahontas she had learned on the bus from a Web site offering social-studies lessons along with math and science. "Before, she just kind of looked out the window," Mrs. Taylor said.

Ethan's mother, Kirsten Clement, is just as enthusiastic. The online classes allow regular interaction with far-flung teachers. Last year, Ethan completed AP Biology on the bus, earning college credit. This year, she is taking a calculus class not offered at her high school.

"Ethan has had conversations with people who can tickle her mind, and that's something I could not provide for her," Mrs. Clement said.

Write to Stephanie Simon at

Monday, December 22, 2008

edupunk -- do we like it?

A "Buzzword" article ("Choice Syllables for 2008i, You Betcha") caught my eye in the Sunday, December 21, 2008 New York Times. TV talking heads have picked up on the political buzzwords mentioned by writer Mark Leibovich, like "Caribou Barbie" and "Obamination," but readers of this blog might well focus on "edupunk," the term coined this spring by Jim Groom and defined in Wikipedia as an approach to teaching and learning practices that result from a do it yourself (DIY) attitude.

Leibovich says edupunk is "a style of hands-on self education that benefits the student without concern for curriculums or the interests of schools, corporations, or governments. In other words, an autodidactic aproach that spurns commercialism, mass-market approaches, and top-down goal setting."

Does this sound like quality generic education?

I don 't have the time to look into the various layers behind the edupunk term, but I bet there's more than one meaning and that some aren't flattering. Can someone elucidate?

Barbara Figge Fox

PS. The plural for curriculum is curricula. After three years of high school Latin I thought it didn't look right, and I looked it up. Hands-on self education at work.

Friday, December 19, 2008

CSpan Study Guide -

Friday, December 19, 2008 

Username:     Password:    Teachers, Register Here! Forgot Username or Password?

Principles of Government
US Constitution
Legislative Branch
Executive Branch
Judicial Branch
Political Participation
   Benefits of Registering   
   Sample Clips   
   Video Search   
   Copyright Policy   
   Grants and Fellowship   
   Special Offers   
   C-SPAN Classroom Bulletin   

Students will identify the President's cabinet members and understand their individual roles.

One 90-minute block period or two 45-minute periods

  1. A computer
  2. A screen to project computer and video images
  3. LCD projector
  4. Graphic Organizer
    * Identifying the President's Cabinet

Executive Branch
U.S. Constitution

  1. Ask students to describe what makes up the Executive Branch. What positions are involved other than the president and vice president?
  2. Explain to students that a president is in charge of selecting several people to head up the Executive departments. This tradition dates back to the beginning of the presidency. Ask which article of the U.S. Constitution addresses Executive power.
  3. Project the text of Article II Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Highlight the portion from which the president draws the power to select a cabinet. Read aloud or select a student to read the portion to the class.
  4. Ask students how many Executive departments currently exist. Do they know which Department was most recently created? As a group have students identify some of these departments. Ask students if they can identify any Cabinet members under President Bush or any of President-Elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet nominees.
  5. Pass out the graphic organizer, Identifying the President’s Cabinet. This activity can be done either in groups or individually.
  6. Play the C-SPAN clips below. The Cabinet members are listed in the order in which they were named by President-Elect Obama. After each clip, have the students write down the nominee under the appropriate Department on their graphic organizer. Below their name have students list the nominees' qualifications.

    Play   Secretary of Treasury – Tim Geithner

    Play   Secretary of State – Sen. Hillary Clinton

    Play   Secretary of Defense – Sec. Robert Gates

    Play   Secretary of Homeland Security – Gov. Janet Napolitano

    Play   Attorney General – Eric Holder

    Play   U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations – Susan Rice

    Play   Secretary of Commerce – Gov. Bill Richardson

    Play   Secretary of Veterans Affairs – Gen. Eric Shinseki

    Play   Secretary of Health and Human Services - Tom Daschle

    Play   Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Shaun Donovan

    Play   Secretary of Energy - Stephen Chu

    Play   Secretary of Education - Arne Duncan

    Play   Secretary of the Interior - Ken Salazar

    Play   Secretary of Agriculture - Tom Vilsack

  7. Discuss each nominee with the class. Call on individual students or groups of students to name the nominees and list their qualifications. Ask if the students are familiar with the nominee? Where may they have heard of this person before?

Explain to the students how a nominee becomes a Secretary. Ask why the nominees have to go through a confirmation process. Which body of government must confirm the nominees?

  1. Have students note which cabinet positions have not yet been filled. Ask the students to select a person that they think could fill one of the empty positions. List their qualifications, and have students write an essay on why this person would be a good selection.
  2. Print out the biographies of the nominees listed below. Hand these out to the students, and have them fill in more information about each person’s qualifications.
  3. Ask students to research the primary functions of one or more cabinet position/positions. Have them create a job posting for a cabinet position listing the qualifications necessary to fulfill the position.

C-SPAN’s Presidential Transition site
President Elect Obama’s Transition
Tim Geithner biography
Hillary Clinton biography
Robert Gates biography
Janet Napolitano biography
Eric Holder biography
Susan Rice biography
Bill Richardson biography
Eric Shinseki biography
Tom Daschle biography
Shaun Donovan biography
Stephen Chu biography
Arne Duncan biography
Ken Salazar biography
Tom Vilsack biography

Contact Us | About Us | FAQ's | Register  |  C-SPAN Alert  |  C-SPAN Store  |  Campaign 2008 Bus  |  StudentCam  

A member of Cable in the Classroom

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Preparation by Eighth Grade Critical to College/Career Readiness

Condensed overview of ACT’s report, “The Forgotten Middle,” available for viewing and free downloading on ACT’s website at

Most U.S. Eighth-Graders Aren’t On Track, Will Face Uphill Battle to Catch Up

Iowa City, IA—Students who aren’t on track for college and career readiness by eighth grade are unlikely to attain that level of readiness by high school graduation, according to “The Forgotten Middle,” a new research report by ACT, Inc

The findings suggest the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a bigger impact on whether they are ready for college and career by the time they graduate than any single factor examined, including courses taken, grades earned in high school and demographic characteristics such as gender, race, and household income.

“Eighth grade is a critical defining point for students in the college and career planning process,” saidCynthia B. Schmeiser, president and chief operating officer of ACT’s Education Division. “If students are not on target for college and career readiness by the time they reach this point, the impact may be nearly irreversible.”

The findings suggest that few U.S. eighth-graders are currently on target to be ready for college-level work by the time they graduate from high school. Only 16 percent of the recent high school graduates studied in ACT’s research had met or surpassed the organization’s College Readiness Benchmarks in all four subject areas—English, math, reading, and science—on EXPLORE, the organization’s eighth grade assessment of academic skills. Students who meet those benchmarks are on target to be college-ready by the time they graduate from high school. College readiness is defined by ACT as having a high likelihood of earning a “C” or higher in first year college courses in each subject area.

Conversely, the report suggests, being on target for college and career readiness by eighth grade puts students on a trajectory for success in high school and beyond. Among three groups of eighth grade students studied—those who were on target, those who just missed being on target, and those who were more substantially off target—only those who were on target in eighth grade were ultimately ready for college and career by their junior or senior year of high school.

“The implications of this research are clear,” said Schmeiser. “If we want to improve college readiness among U.S. high school graduates, we need to intervene before students reach high school, in upper elementary and middle school. The findings impact not only how we prepare students leading up to high school but in what strategic ways we intervene with those who are
behind academically in high school. Both elements are critical for ensuring that our high school grads are ready for college and career. Our students deserve it, and our nation demands it.”

ACT’s report suggests that the impact of this problem extends beyond college preparation to the U.S. workforce and the economy.

“The skills necessary for entry into the majority of the fastest growing jobs that require a high school diploma and offer a livable wage are comparable to those needed for success in first-year college courses,” said Schmeiser. “In the context of our current economic challenges, we should be targeting eighth grade readiness as a key benchmark for our nation’s ability to produce a workforce that is ready to succeed and compete in the global economy. The findings suggest we have a long way to go to ensure that outcome.”

ACT’s longitudinal research followed approximately 216,000 students in the U.S. graduating classes of 2005 and 2006 from eighth grade through high school graduation. All of these students had taken each of the three curriculum-based assessments in ACT’s College Readiness System—EXPLORE for eighth-graders, PLAN for 10th-graders, and the ACT college admission and placement exam.

The findings indicate that eighth grade academic achievement is a better predictor of eventual college and career readiness than any other single factor studied, including background characteristics, courses taken in high school, grades earned in high school, or student testing behaviors.

The study also found that improving certain behaviors of middle school students can help increase their readiness for college and career by the time they graduate. Two academic behaviors were found to have the greatest impact on both eighth grade course failure and ninth grade GPA:academic discipline (e.g., good work and study habits) and orderly conduct (behaving appropriately in class).

The report offers several recommendations to educators and policymakers on how to improve college and career readiness among high school graduates, including the following: Focus K-8 (kindergarten through eighth grade) standards on the knowledge and skills that are essential for college and career readiness, and make these nonnegotiable for all students.

Monitor student progress toward college and career readiness beginning in upper elementary school and continuing through middle school, and intervene with students who are not on target to becoming ready.

Improve students’ academic behaviors (homework compliance, attendance, and other aspects of academic discipline).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Bookwatch: QGE=A

Education is more than just a seasonal political football for aspiring politicians. It is the foundation for a prosperous, free and democratic nation. A new education system for obtaining the best education at the lowest possible cost--"QGE = A: Quality Generic Education is the Answer" is a proposition for a revolutionary new way to educate our children. Author Win Straube has quite the mind for new solutions as an inventor, scientist, and engineer, to connect everyone to the best educators for any given subject in the world. "QGE = A: Quality Generic Education is the Answer" is something that all educators should read and consider and carries our highest recommendations to community library education shelves.
University Press of America

Monday, November 17, 2008

Nobody Knew

If you think that times are bad, think again. Read “Nobody Knew” by Win Straube, available at Amazon

and find out that far worse times existed fairly recently, the sky didn’t fall after all, how survival breeds success.

Living through a country’s economic malaise can be a valuable lesson in ongoing education for dealing with the issues of the day. “Interesting times” and being “interested” are the price to pay for advancing in a continually changing, competitive world.

Enjoy and learn from “Nobody Knew”!

Hamilton Books, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Raising the Bar In Higher Education

Higher education in the United States is in trouble. Despite a high number of college students, Americans still lag behind many other high-income countries in adult literacy. America’s colleges are graduating fewer engineers and computer scientists than some economic competitors — almost twice as many bachelor’s degrees in physics were awarded in 1956, the last class before Sputnik, than in 2004.

Kurt Landgraf, president and CEO of Educational Testing Services on Rosedale Road, made these points two years ago. In the statement, which coincided with the release of an ETS report entitled “A Culture of Evidence,” Landgraf pointed out that though we have tangible facts about certain aspects of higher education in the United States — how much it costs to attend college, which majors are popular, the number of Ph.D.s on the faculty — we do not know whether students really are learning.

Two years later concerns over what is being learned and how it is affecting the emerging workforce linger. “When it comes to higher education, we have a measure for almost everything but what matters most: actual learning outcomes at our nation’s colleges and universities,” Landgraf says. “Whether the United States remains competitive will depend in large part on the ability of our postsecondary institutions to prepare learned, high-performing graduates equipped for the global workplace.”

No one in charge. Higher learning, says Landgraf, is not adequately measured. Unlike K-12 schooling, which is kept under tight watch by No Child Left Behind standards, colleges have no overseer demanding accountability.

According to “A Culture of Evidence,” attention is paid to test scores, number of degrees granted by an institution, and where graduates are working, but not much is paid to the learning process itself. The report suggests a national system of accountability that measures workplace readiness, domain-specific knowledge and skills, “soft” skills such as creativity and teamwork, and the level with which students are engaged in their studies.

Such measures, says Landgraf, are still needed. And while America’s colleges are the world standard in higher education, the sheen is quickly dulling. Europeans, says Landgraf, are far ahead of American colleges in articulating what a person at various educational levels should know or be able to do. ETS is considering creating an “ETS Credentials Service” that would allow students to gather credentials, such as test scores, that employers could use.

Money. A major problem with attending college in America, says Landgraf, is that it is terribly expensive. “Rising costs putting college education out of reach of more Americans.” But while costs are rising, state and federal support for students and institutions is falling, Landgraf says. Turmoil in the banking and lending industries have forced several would-be lenders out of the college loan business and an increasing number of default loans are not helping. Where once lenders jumped at the chance to help, they now are backing away and leaving students with fewer ways to pay for college.

Price of a college education a major concern for Americans, Landgraf says. “The public is right to be concerned. The United States cannot afford to slip further.”

High school revisited. The academic quality of high school graduates is as much part of the problem as it is the result of their education, Landgraf says. A 2006 ETS study entitled “America Speaks” found that American students are entering college deficient in math and science education, as well as in basic business skills. The National Governors Association estimates deficits in basic skills cost high school graduates, colleges, and businesses $16 billion a year.

Schools, therefore, need to improve teacher-training programs and support professional development — particularly in math, science, world languages, and special education.
“The value of postsecondary education is undeniable,” Landgraf says. “America’s colleges and universities are among the finest in world and in history of human thought. But the U.S. is falling short of its own standards, and falling behind other countries. We need to recognize the urgency of situation or we will pay the price — and bear the burden.”

Condensed version reprinted from U.S.1 Newspaper by Scott Morgan

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Add Money Preparedness to Scout Motto!

In order to reach Eagle rank, Boy Scouts must learn financial smarts
(Condensed Version)

By Candice Choi
The Asociated Press

NEW YORK -- Whether it's backpacking, canoeing or picking stocks, good Boy Scouts approach all tasks with the same motto: Be prepared.

Perhaps because of their outdoorsy image, few realize that money management is a part of Scouting. To earn what's called the personal management badge, boys must know the difference between simple and compound interest and how mutual funds differ from CDs.

Last year, nearly 50,000 Scouts between the ages of 12 and 17 earned the badge, which is required to obtain the elite Eagle rank.

"I thought (money) was just about trying to save more than you spend," said John Yurgil, a 16-year-old in Livonia, Mich., who earned the badge last month.

Now he knows there are myriad ways to invest -- such as stocks, CDs and mutual funds -- and that each carries its own risks and rewards. The high school junior also tracked his budget over 13 weeks and mapped out a hypothetical blueprint for making a major family purchase, in his case a washing machine.

About five years ago, the badge's focus was expanded beyond savings to include material on investing and project management.

Requirements now include discussing how emotions influence spending and understanding the significance of a stock's 52-week price range and the importance of good credit.

"It's a part of walking into life well prepared," said Russ Hunsaker, a Scout leader in Salt Lake City who chaired the committee that rewrote the requirements for the badge.

Boys don't need to pass a test to get the badge, but they must demonstrate an understanding of the materials to their merit badge counselor, typically a volunteer from the financial services industry.

For about three months, Scouts meet weekly with their counselor one-on-one or in a group setting, depending on the local council. Few badges require such a long time commitment; many can be earned in just a day.

The badge is one of 21 boys must earn to become an Eagle -- a rank only about 5 percent of the 900,000 eligible Boy Scouts last year obtained. Because of the difficulty of earning the badge, it's often one of the last boys pursue, Hunsaker said.

That was the case for his son, Ellis, 17, who knew as little as most teenagers about managing money before earning the badge.

"I learned how to budget and save my own money, instead of just splurging. I learned about the stock market and different kinds of investments," said the younger Hunsaker, whose interest in the topic has since led him to enroll in a two-year business program at his high school.

Many adults today could have benefited from such early exposure to finance, said Ellen Siegel, a certified financial planner and president of Ellen R. Siegel & Associates in Miami.

"If people already knew how to think along the lines of planning and budgeting and comparison shopping, they wouldn't be caught off guard by what's happening today," she said.

Among those who do not pay their balance in full every month, for instance, the average credit card debt is $17,000, according to the Consumer Federation of America.

As Ellis Hunsaker heads off to college next fall, for instance, his father points out the teen will no doubt be inundated with credit card applications.

"They need to understand what the consequences are of opening one," Hunsaker said.

Now, his son is likely prepared to make wiser choices than many of his peers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Summary of Some Random Thoughts on Culture - By Tony Pellegrino

(Condensed from Saipan Tribune)

We are at a turning point in our culture. As we are pushed and pulled into the larger arena of ties with the United States, it is vital we approach the concept of “culture” with an unbiased and open mind. Many fear that our “culture” will be lost. Many claim we have already lost it and have replaced it with a hybrid. It is time to define exactly what our culture. Is it helping or hindering us in our time of need?

Living in Saipan, we are bombarded by various cultures brought here by various peoples who come to work and live. However no one has defined the culture we fear losing. So let’s discuss it a bit in the hope that it will open up a dialogue for better understanding.

Over the past years we have invited foreigners to visit us as tourists. This type of activity doesn’t affect our “culture” very much because we know that in a few days they will leave. We try to be polite extending our hospitality and show them our “culture” in the hope they will be impressed.

Also over the past years we have invited foreigners to work for us. This type of activity has affected our culture very much because they tend to remain for long periods. In fact, they have remained and even intermarried with our citizens thereby fostering their culture on our own. In addition, we also invite foreigners to invest in our islands and to reap economic benefits at our expense. This group of foreigners also has a lasting impact on our culture.

But the most serious impact continues to come from the United States. We requested becoming citizens and continue to accept huge sums of money from it. Yet we worry about the U.S.’s impact on us. But the irony of all this worry is that we scramble to send our children to schools in the U.S. Some of us even buy homes and go to either work or retire there. We eagerly buy products from the U.S. But at the same time we wish to reject its values and culture.

In a book by Thomas Sowell entitled Race and Culture, he explains that “real culture” such as “music and art” comes only after prosperity and leisure time sets in. But it is another facet of culture that we sometimes overlook which make a major impact on any country. To quote: “the focus here will be primarily on those aspects of culture which provide the material requirements of life itself—the specific skill, general work habits, saving propensities, and attitudes towards education and entrepreneurship—in short what economists call “human capital.” This one point—human capital—when fully understood determines how and when the CNMI will become economically strong again.

How does our “human capital culture” influence the economy? Have we defined it into writing thereby showing our specific skills, our general work habits, our saving of money and resource habits, and our attitudes towards education and entrepreneurship? How do we compare to other peoples?

Some people believe that technology is the sole determinant of economic progress. One only has to look at all the rusting machinery and decaying Western factories given to third world countries along with massive international aid programs. Mr. Sowell explains: “They are a monument to the fallacy of believing that technology transfer is simple a matter of access, rather than a cultural receptivity as well….Differences of work habits, savings propensities, organizational skills, personal hygiene, attitudes, and self-discipline all influence end results, both economic and social.”

We have a commonality with Malaysia, Fiji and India and many African countries in that most of their college graduates aspire to work for the government. This seems the same in the CNMI in that most people want to work for the government. Mr. Sowell explains: “Government employment remains a prime objective and a prime source of inter-group conflict in underdeveloped countries around the world….Formal education, especially among peoples for whom it is rare or recent, often creates feelings of entitlement to rewards and exemption from many kinds of work.”

We see every day how some foreigners come to our islands and begin at a lower socioeconomic level than many of us and eventually rise above us due to their skills, work habits, or other economic performance differences. Thus since foreigners can succeed, so can we locals.

Almost daily I hear about our young educated minds leaving the islands because they cannot find a job. My question is why are we allowing this to happen? Why aren’t we making an effort to retain them? The few that remain are forced to seek employment in government. What is wrong with our system or worse with our thinking to let this happen?

Could one of the reasons that these young people are leaving or refusing to come back is that our islands have little to offer them after spending four years in a modern college in or near an exciting city with many attractions? Could it be that they do not wish to continue the customs as practiced by their ancestors? Could it be that they sense a feeling of sterility here with little hope for advancement?

We continue to believe that this is our land and outsiders are destroying our culture. But what we forget is that daily we must work to maintain our position and that can only be done through cultivating our “human capital.” However we have been lulled into the belief that because “this is our land,” we should have entitlement rights.

Mr. Sowell writes a stinging commentary that I feel fits us so well and has caused us most of the dilemma that we find ourselves in. “Indigenous political leaders, well aware of such counterproductive economic consequences of their pressures against middlemen, nevertheless have every incentive to push such policies, which reap immediate political gains, whatever their long-run economic damage to the community or the nation.” For “middlemen” I substitute the word “local workforce.” In other words we have been duped into accepting low wage workers at the expense of motivating and training our local people into developing our “human capital culture.”

By no means am I trying to suggest what our culture beliefs should be. Nor am I trying to suggest that our culture is not as good as others. But I am suggesting that no matter what we think of ourselves and loudly proclaim ourselves to be, we will never become economically strong until we fully develop our “human capital culture.” When we have almost 22,000 guest workers and thousands of local people out of work, have we really developed our “human capital?”

We will always remain dominated by someone else as we have been since the Spaniards landed here. For years we have been passed around from country to country. But for once, with the help of the United States, we can become almost self-sufficient and proud again. As the Bible tells us: “With all thy Wisdom, get understanding.” When will we?

Monday, September 29, 2008

We have Failed in Educating Our Youth! - By Tony Pellegrino

Saipan Tribune
September 22, 2008

We have failed to educate our youth for many years and as a result we are now feeling the results of that failure. This is a matter which we cannot blame on the government or outside influence. We are to blame solely. The lack of a good education in our youth is our failure because of the low standards we set for ourselves. Now we are paying the price for it.

Look at what we have produced. Many adults can barely read and write. Many never read books or magazines to keep abreast of changes in the world. Many have never learned skills or training in any job. Over 75% of our youth have no desire to improve themselves. They are imprisoned in their minds to a small island forgetting that the CNMI has become a part of the world of nations. Is it any wonder that we are in the situation we are in now? Take a look at the facts below and let’s ask ourselves when are we going to wise up?

This past June 2008, 800 seniors graduated from high school. Out of 800, only about 200 decided to go to an institution of higher learning whether it is NMC or a college somewhere else. This represents only 25% of the young minds. The mainland average for students going to college is 63%.

What will happen to the other 600 students or 75% at the age of 17 to 18 years of age? Do they have any skills to find good jobs? Or will they just drift and become a burden on society? What will their children be like?

Consider the previous year 2007, another 800 graduated and only 200 went to college. But 600 youths are still walking the streets with no direction and little education. Then in 2006, another 800 graduated and again only 200 went to college. Where are the previous 1200 plus this year’s 600 for a total of 1800 barely educated students? Are they working? Are they on food stamps because they have no skills to offer? What are they doing to earn a living? Are these young people an asset or a liability to the community?

Let’s add up the total number of 200 X 3 years equals 600 students in the process of getting an advanced education or 25% of graduates. But 600 X 3 years equals 1800 students who are barely educated or 75% who did not go to college. They remain mostly unemployed young people with little guidance or direction in their lives

If we keep going back several more years, the number of uneducated citizens rises. We can only conclude that the majority of our citizens are poorly educated and unskilled. I haven’t counted in hundreds of students who have dropped out of school before graduation.

What does this say about the future of the CNMI? What does it say about our school system? What does it say about parents and the responsibility in guiding their children? What does it say about our community? Why has this sad situation been happening? Instead of pointing fingers at who is responsible for the low level of education and unskilled workers, let us seek solutions to improve the situation and motivate young people to want to learn.

It has been shown that a child from the age of five to 18 years old spends at least 92% of his awakened time outside school. Therefore most of a child’s education, 92%, begins and continues in the home and environment. Parents are the most influential teachers on a child’s development. The child copies the type of relationship he sees between his father and mother and assumes that is the correct way for a married couple to live and raise children. We parents must examine the way we influence our children because they become carbon copies of our lives.

Let me relate an incident that happened recently in one of my companies. A newly young hired employee, 23 years old, was caught stealing company funds. Upon apprehension, he admitted it. When asked about his family life, he admitted he had no relationship with his father and little with his mother. At 17 years old he had dropped out of high school and had never worked a day in his life. This was his first real job in six years since dropping out of school! He is living with a young girl and has fathered three children. The youngest one is two weeks old and the oldest is four years old. What happened here? Who failed this young man? What future does he have? How many more are out there like him? Why can’t we help them? They are us when we were young!

Please parents and community, wake up! What we sow so shall we reap. We owe it to our children to give our time and love. But we also must guide them to goals in life. We must invest in them and motivate them to want to want to succeed. We must insist that they do better than us.

Another area that should be carefully examined is our public school system. After spending millions of dollars yearly, are we really producing fairly well educated youth? What justification does the school system have for not producing better educated youth? Shouldn’t the school system really take a closer look at the techniques it is using and accept changes in education. Basically it is still teaching as it did over 80 years ago. Think about why we can’t educate our youth better? Is it the students fault? Is it our fault? Is it the usual excuse --lack of money? What is it that prevents us? Could it be that we really don’t care?

We are the community and must demand better results from the school system. We must find ways to teach our slower children better. Any child who desires to drop out of school should be strongly discouraged from doing so and highly motivated to continue his schooling. Extra facilities must be created to accommodate the slower students. Lack of money must not be the cop-out.

In the Northern Marianas Trades Institute recently started, I discovered that 17 students out of 36 do not have a high school diploma. It is gratifying to see these students seeking a second chance to learn. With the proper guidance they will become skillful and educated members of our community.

Repeatedly I have mentioned that a nation is only as successful as its educated and trained citizens. We have great potential manpower but we are not developing it. When will we wake up? We must realize that it is our personal problem. When will we realize that an uneducated population is a drain on the nation? When will we start to make the necessary changes? We must seek solutions. If we do not implement changes to improve, how can we perpetuate our culture and increase our chances for prosperity? How low will we descend until we wake up and find ourselves aliens and poor in our own land?

It is not too late. Improvement begins with a first step coupled with clear goals supported by a strong desire to change. Let’s begin correcting one of our most crucial problems. We must better educate our youth and ourselves. We must guide them in wanting to seek a higher education and to learn a skill. Stop the abuse of our young people’s future. A wasted mind is a sin. Only education will make us free! Only education will make us whole again!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Remediating in College- Submitted by Sue Ferrara

I am teaching a college-based remedial writing class this semester. The will to learn is there, but the lack of student skills finds me teaching the basics: nouns, verbs, homonyms, possessives. All these parts of speech should have been taught across the K-12 curriculum. And how do these students earn H.S. diplomas? Gosh, if American schools can start teaching sex education in Kindergarten, can't the curriculum support the teaching of English? Or may the last statement should read: Instead of starting sex education in Kindergarten, schools should focus on teaching students to read, write and do math?

Sue Ferrara

Colleges spend billions to teach freshmen basic skills
by The Associated Press
Monday September 15, 2008, 1:00 AM

It's a tough lesson for millions of students just now arriving on campus: even if you have a high school diploma, you may not be ready for college. In fact, a new study calculates, one-third of American college students have to enroll in remedial classes. The bill to colleges and taxpayers for trying to bring them up to speed on material they were supposed to learn in high school comes to between $2.3 billion and $2.9 billion annually.

'That is a very large cost, but there is an additional cost and that's the cost to the students,' said former Colorado governor Roy Romer, chair of the group Strong American Schools (,which is issuing the report 'Diploma to Nowhere' on Monday. 'These students come out of high school really misled. They think they're prepared. They got a 3.0 and got through the curriculum they needed to get admitted, but they find what they learned wasn't adequate.

'Christina Jeronimo was an 'A' student in high school English,but was placed in a remedial course when she arrived at Long Beach Community College in California. The course was valuable in some ways but frustrating and time-consuming. Now in her third year of community college, she'd hoped to transfer to UCLA by now.

Like many college students, she wishes she'd been worked a little harder in high school. 'There's a gap,' said Jeronimo, who hopes to study psychology. 'The demands of the high school teachers aren't as great as the demands for college. Sometimes they just baby us.

'The problem of colleges devoting huge amounts of time and money to remediation isn't new, though its scale and cost has been difficult to measure. The latest report gives somewhat larger estimates than some previous studies, though it is not out of line with trends suggested in others, said Hunter Boylan, an expert at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, who was not connected with the report.

Analyzing federal data, the report estimates 43 percent of community college students require remediation, as do 29 percent of students at public four-year universities, with higher numbers in some places. For instance, four in five Oklahoma community college students need remedial coursework, and three in five in the giant California State university system need help in English, math or both. The cost per student runs to as much as $2,000 per student in community colleges and $2,500 in four-year universities.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

PDELA - Pennsylvania Distance Learning Charter School

The Pennsylvania Distance Learning Charter School (PDELA), is a statewide distance learning, non-sectarian public charter school for grades K-12 that operates in a home-based learning environment. PDELA exists through the legal authority of Pennsylvania charter school laws, and answers directly to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. It combines teacher designed education with parent involvement and uses computer and distance-learning technologies. As a public school, PDELA is tuition-free. The programs are designed to provide each student with an individualized, home-based education in grades K-12. Students reside all across Pennsylvania.

PDELA operates under the direction of The Pennsylvania Distance Learning Charter School, a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, headed by an independent Board of Directors comprised of community leaders who are dedicated to the expansion of parental choice in education throughout Pennsylvania. PDELA, through its independent Board of Directors, is dedicated to furnishing an individualized distance learning program for children in grades K-12.

Everything that a PDELA student needs for his or her education is provided for. PDELA provides:
• A tuition-free education that students complete from the comfort and safety of home.
• A complete computer system, including desktop computer and a color printer/fax/scanner
• An award-winning curriculum
• Teachers who are dedicated to supporting each parent educator and student
• Live, interactive, online class sessions
• Access to progress, grades and curriculum 24 hours a day
• Access to online tutoring and homework help
• Online resources such as LexisNexis, World Book and a video library with over 10,000 educational videos
• Scholarships so that families may obtain a high-speed internet connection
• Field trips
• Technical support
• Reimbursements for supplemental educational activities

Dedicated PDELA faculty and staff are available to help support parents and students through email, phone, fax, and postal mail communications. Teachers also lead live interactive classes for students to attend on a regular basis.

All PDELA teachers are certified by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Students are assigned a highly qualified teacher for each class in which they are enrolled.

Students in grades 7-12 are assigned an Academic Advisor. Academic Advisors monitor attendance and academic progress, establish goals with the parent educator, and assist with post-graduation planning.


Special Education students and their families have the support of an Intervention Specialist. The IS works with students and parent-educators to ensure that the goals, objectives, and accommodations of Individual Education Plans (IEP) are met and appropriate course selections are made.

PDELA provides a Technical Support hotline to solve computer-related issues effectively over the phone. The Technical Support team will work with families to answer hardware, software, and Internet connectivity questions.

In order to make sure that each family has a smooth transition into the program, a full Admissions Department is provided for students to aid in the process. Admissions Counselors have the answers to help parents and students understand the steps needed to become part of the PDELA family.

To ensure that parents have additional resources to support student learning, a Parent Supplemental Education Account (PSEA) is established for each student. After the first year of enrollment, funds will accumulate for each student, based on the number of years enrolled at PDELA. PSEA reimbursements can help students enjoy museum and zoo memberships or purchase additional educational items to guide their academic success.


PDELA field trips bring curriculum to life! Students of all ages utilize these opportunities to engage their minds and enhance their learning experience. PDELA student field trips are designed for students of all ages. These historical and cultural activities have included the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh, Gettysburg National Park, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg Science Centers, and Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field and Historical Center.

PDELA provides a special education program in accordance with current federal and state regulations and guidelines. This program is individualized to the unique needs of each child who has been diagnosed as needing Special Education services. PDELA provides a multi-faceted educational evaluation as needed for each student with a disability.

For further information regarding PDELA, visit

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Summary of "Financial Literacy: A Plan for All Ages" - By John E. McWeeney, Jr.

(Condensed from New Jersey Banker, Summer 2008)

As our nation and our economy struggle through the fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis, it's apparent that the need for widespread financial education has never been greater. How many foreclosures might have been averted if homeowners had been better educated on mortgage products?

The same holds true for teaching young children to save, training young adults on budgeting and the proper handling of their deposit accounts, credit cards, and protecting senior citizens from financial predators. The American Bankers Association says that at present, as many as 86% of students in the U.S. have never taken a course in personal financial education. The need is magnified by the exploding population of new immigrants who don't speak English and who have not entered our banking system .

The challenge is great and developing a solution will require a collaborative effort on the part of both the public and private sectors. The good news is that the banking industry is putting forth positive and lasting efforts to promote financial literacy.

An example of a local New Jersey Bank who has found success with their teaching program is illustrated below:

First Hope Bank

Introduced in 2004, the bank has worked in conjunction with Great Meadows School Librarian Helene Palestri and her Young Savers Program, made up of first - through fifth- graders, who make deposits weekly into First Hope KIDS (Kids Investing Dollars Sensibly) acounts by visiting the school library, which is transformed into a bank, where fifth grade "tellers" collect, tally and credit the money. There's even a "branch manager" to welcome young bankers and direct them to an available teller.

Palestri says, that "the fifth grade teller jobs are very much coveted." The children must complete an application before being offered the position and that each teller has a name plate and a "work basket" containing a calcualtor, and stamp date and deposit slips. The Manager, Dawn Barbera, of First Hope's Great Meadows Office says the children "get a kick out of watching their money grow through interest." The program is a huge hit with parents and children alike.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Financial Illiteracy Hits "Home" Revisited- by Patrick L. Ryan

(Condensed from New Jersey Banker, Summer 2008)

In order for our young adults to meet the needs of their future and and that of their future families, there must be an educational foundation put in place to help off-set our current trends in financial illiteracy, namely our current mortgage crisis. Those who succumbed to great salesmanship of low teaser rates and minimal monthly payments, and who are now discovering how risky those loans really were and the unbearable financial burdens they must bear after those low introductory rates conclude. Hence, our on-going crisis of home foreclosures and bankruptcies.

Slick sales presentations, easy credit and lax regulation are a significant part of the problem, but our first line of defense is ourselves and our financial literacy. Understanding compound interest, the mechanics of a loan agreement and the applicable mortgage tables are vital skills which all of us need to survive the financial realities of the 21st century.

All the writing and mathematical skills carefully taught and absorbed over an educational career will not allow today's young adult to recognize the importance of early retirement planning, personal finance, credit card management and the elements of the myriad mortgage contracts available today without specific financial training.

The lack of financial literacy training in the prevailing educational systems is as serious a deficiency as can be imaginable. False financial moves early in life involving student loans, credit cards or other instruments can haunt young people for the rest of their lives through large debt loads and the expensive consequences of a poor credit score.

The public education system must take notice of this hole in its programs and address the matter, or many financial lives will continue to be damaged and essentially lost!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What Gifts Should We Give to Our Children? -- By Tony Pellegrino

As we struggle to establish a footing in our economic downslide, who has the time to consider what gifts we should give to our children? Do we give them a gift of almost $300,000,000 in debt? Do we give them a better or worse society than the one we have created? Do we merely satisfy all their instant material cravings? Exactly what should we give to our children?

As the father of five children, I am confused as to what gifts we are giving or should be giving to our children. What attitudes are we putting in their minds? When only 200 of our graduating students wish to obtain a higher education, what are the other 600 students going to do without it? Will they either join the military or join the ranks of food stamp recipients? What ideals and ambitions are we, as parents, instilling in our children?

My own parents were immigrants from Sicily who worked hard all their lives. I often reflect on the gifts that they gave to my brother, sister and me as children. The gifts were neither money nor property. Instead, they instilled in us a strong desire to get an education coupled with a fierce determination to succeed at anything we attempted in life.

When my father arrived in America, he had neither schooling nor skills. Somehow he found a job in a small bakery washing baking pans, sweeping the floor and doing other menial chores. Over the years, by watching and asking questions, he learned how to bake and was finally able to open his own bakery.

My mother, also without schooling and skills, found a job in a clothing factory sewing garments. She taught herself how to sew well until she was hired as a seamstress in a ladies’ fashion store. Later, she joined my father in their small bakery and grocery store. My father baked and my mother operated the store.

I cannot recall either of my parents ever being absent from or late to work unless they were so sick that it was almost impossible to rise from their beds. They were thrifty with their earnings, yet provided a clean, decent home and plenty of food for all of us. They showered love and attention on the three of us children. Basically, they lived what they taught us.

As my sister, brother and I enjoyed their love, we somehow picked up their wishes that we obtain a good education and the determination to succeed. My brother became an oral surgeon and my sister received her Bachelor of Arts degree, though late, at age 59. After receiving my Master’s degree in Liberal Arts, I first became a teacher and later a businessman. These are some of the gifts I received from my parents.

Hoping that this article will get us parents thinking about what gifts to give our children, allow me to cite a few. The list may be added to or modified as the reader feels necessary. We, as parents, and society must become aware of the ideals and goals we instill in our children because they will mirror us in a few years! Consider our own parents’ influence on us and how much we think and act as them throughout our lives.

A. I feel that the first and most important ideal to give our children is the following quote:
“The best gift a father can give to his children is to love their mother. And the best gift the mother can give to her children is to love their father.”
Think about why this is so important!

B. The next gift is sound character education, and one of the most important qualities of character education is virtuous behavior. The definition of virtue includes integrity, industry, and responsibility. If our children are not educated about the attributes of character necessary to succeed in life, they will not find happiness.

C. If our young people are going to be successful in meeting the tough challenges facing them in society, we need to instill mutual respect, tolerance, empathy, civility, humility, honesty, and resolution. Space limits the discussion of the above qualities but you already know what they mean if you are displaying good character.

D. Public Service must be taught to our children. We should teach our young people that they can be proud of public service, that it is stimulating and rewarding. Public service can take many forms from elected public office to volunteer service in the community. The active participation of our children in public service will ensure the greatness of our country. They must become interested in the political and social community around them.

E. A sound education must be taught about our alliances. Our children must understand and appreciate that they are citizens of the United States and also citizens of the world. Our children must grasp this relationship and understand their history. If they do not, they will not be able to effectively appreciate or participate in our varying levels of representative government.

Another one of the greatest gifts to give our children is to instill confidence and determination in whatever they attempt to do. Confidence and determination lead to success regardless of the difficulties to be faced.

The above suggestions are merely to jumpstart thinking about our relationships with our children. Your list will have many more, and perhaps will be different from mine, however, if we are diligent in instilling the above ideals in our children they will find their own paths in life easily whether they be in academics or as skilled trades people. What is important is that we carefully consider the gifts we give to our children? Our influence on them is greater than we realize.

Sadly, there is one gift that our government and we parents are giving our children which is unfair and will cause great hardship for years; it is the bestowing of a huge debt (close to $300,000,000.00), on them through no fault of theirs. If we truly value our children, and wish them to have better lives than we have built for ourselves, we have no choice but to stand up, not only for deficit reduction, but for a systematic plan to reduce the burden of debt that we are piling up daily. Today’s parents and grandparents owe it to their children to take care of their own debts. We must not burden our children with our foolish and wasteful ways; they deserve better.

You and I know that we enrich our own lives as we educate our children. From our young people, we refresh our thinking about optimism, enthusiasm, and new ways of looking at old questions. Indeed, from our children, we learn how to scan new horizons. Let us not place the mistakes we have made on their young shoulders. Let them fly free from the nest and seek new goals. When we give them gifts that add to the zest for life, we can rest assured that we have been good parents.

Whatever gifts we give to our children, tell them over and over, “We love your uniqueness. We love you. We want you to grow up to be all that you can be. You don’t have to be like us. You’re bright and creative. You have blessed us by coming. We really love you,” ending with a great bear hug. Isn’t that what you wished your mother and father had said to you but you never heard? What greater gift is there?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Beware of non-accredited schools and courses!

Case history with a twist:

Kimani is a 23-years old, bright young man who wants a college degree. He was recruited into an Equal Education Opportunity program at Kean University in NJ, after high school graduation. His father encouraged him to sign the papers. Neither understood the consequences. Kimani was 17 at the time.

Essentially, this EEO program meant Kimani signed for a low interest loan of $8000+ and was put into non-credit college courses. Apparently under this program all kids have to take these remedial classes whether they need them or not, and end up with big loans to pay back and no college credit to show for their efforts. In addition to the loan, Kimani had $2700+ he had to pay directly to the college. His father had agreed to pay it, but failed to do so.

Kimani has been working jobs on and off to pay down the debt to Kean while trying to take classes at Mercer County Community College. His debt to Kean is now $1800. And here's the kicker: Until this $1800 gets paid to Kean, Kimani can not apply for any type of aid for school.
Kimani went to see a financial advisor who does nothing but help families figure out their options to pay for college. He has agreed to help Kimani free of charge. And, because Kimani will be 24 in November, this financial advisor thinks he can help Kimani tap into opportunities to attend college for little or no cost.

Now, our blogger's collective wisdom and contacts are invited to help try and figure out how to help Kimani get this $1800 bill paid off. So far, $500 has been put towards the bill. What else is needed is ideas about grants, awards, whatever from businesses, organizations, fraternities, churches, whatever. If there are organizations that anyone is affiliated with that make these kinds of awards, would you please forward them on to here within this blog site?

Kimani's predicament needs to be brought to light so others can be better informed of their decisions. Otherwise, this is akin to the mortgage companies selling loans to people who will never be able to handle the financial burden. Why saddle young people with massive debt while not delivering any kind of college credit?

Thanks for your collective wisdom and help as we try to assist Kimani.

Susan E. Ferrara, Ph.D.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A New Addition to Our Educational Blog: Web Site Directory Offering Accredited Online Learning

We would like to welcome a brand new addtion to our educational blog at with the introduction of a site called Distance Learning College Guide, where they provide information on how you can earn a college degree online with links to over 50 accredited online colleges.

It is our goal to help facilitate awareness to educational sites, such as the one named above, that we believe will help people seek out quality education through distance learning and through online accredited colleges.

Ginger Gertsch
Education Facilitator