Who Killed Jean McConville?

Chronicle of Higher Education - Sun, 2014-01-26 16:00

In secretive Northern Ireland, where information is guarded, sectarian mistrust thrives, and special disdain is reserved for those in authority, it may be hard to ever find the answer.


Categories: Higher Education News

Secrets From Belfast

Chronicle of Higher Education - Sun, 2014-01-26 16:00

How Boston College’s oral history of the Troubles fell victim to an international murder investigation.

Categories: Higher Education News

Wins and Losses

Chronicle of Higher Education - Fri, 2014-01-24 18:14

Glimpses of life in academe from around the world.

Categories: Higher Education News

Duncan Invites Student Feedback on College Access and Affordability

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Fri, 2014-01-24 15:13

Students from the Washington, DC, metro area met with Secretary Duncan to discuss college access and affordability.

At a recent convening at the U.S. Department of Education’s headquarters, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan turned to a group of student experts for answers to the college accessibility, affordability, and completion challenges America faces today. The 15 high school and college students – who brought their firsthand knowledge to the Student Voices session from D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania — identified key improvements to the college application process throughout a conversation with Secretary Duncan and Under Secretary Martha Kanter.

While the national conversation often focuses on the cost of college courses, books, and housing, one student said that expenses begin before setting foot on a college campus. “I’ve already spent a lot of money just applying to colleges,” said the student.

Another student said that the Department should standardize and publicize fee waivers so that students know waivers exist and apply for them.

The Secretary said that most students who fill out the FAFSA apply to just one school. “We have the best [higher education] system in the world and we think [students] should have choices,” said Duncan. “How do we get more students to comparison shop?”

Students agreed that they’d utilize a website that would easily allow them to compare schools – on their own terms. “It is more important about having everything in front of you, all the statistics you can get on a school or college at one time to compare them yourself, not to be compared by someone else,” said one student.

Describing the ideal college website, students said that it should be a “one-stop shop,” linking all government websites that provide assistance in the college application process. Students agreed that the website would also need to be interactive, visually appealing, and simple.

When it came time to apply for college, one international student said, the whole process was foreign to him. He suggested that the website allow users to make profiles that identify knowledge gaps and connect students to resources that fit their needs.

Students said that a website would be a more useful informational tool than counselors and coaches, mentors, or peers. After all, students agreed, in-school support is hard to come by: counselors are too overworked and overwhelmed to individually advise students about the college application process.

“We are doing it on our own,” said one student.

When asked if they would take earnings after graduation into account when picking a college, students said income is not as important as job security and being passionate about your work. “The end game is not always about earnings,” said a student.

As the session came to a close, Undersecretary Kanter spoke about what is next and how students could continue to help develop a comprehensive source to help in college accessibility and affordability. She spoke about the importance behind the rating system, “Can we use the rating system to improve schools? Can we use the rating system to improve consumer choice?” she asked. That is what the Department of Education is continuing to work towards in the next year. Undersecretary Kanter urged the students to continue having an active voice in the conversation by sending in feedback to collegefeedback@ed.gov. Students can also find more updates and information on the Department’s college affordability website.

 Jackie Breuer is a student at American University, and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

Categories: Higher Education News

TurboTax Users to Have New Tools to Learn About Student Loan Repayment Options

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Fri, 2014-01-24 11:01

Sometimes life throws us curveballs. Maybe that curveball means losing a job, or having a hard time finding one after college. Some borrowers may have a growing family or just struggle to pay a high monthly bill. These circumstances may make it difficult for some to afford their monthly federal student loan payments. If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, you may be eligible for a repayment plan that bases your monthly payment on your income.

Borrowers interested in these income-driven repayment plans can visit studentaid.gov to learn more, and for those that use TurboTax Online tax preparation software, a new collaboration among the U.S. Department of Education, the Treasury Department and Intuit Inc. (the company behind TurboTax) will make it easier to learn about their repayment choices.

This tax-filing season, a banner will be featured on the TurboTax software that lets users know they have options for repaying federal student loans. The banner will link to ED’s online Repayment Estimator, where users will be able to determine if they could lower their monthly student loan payments through an income-driven repayment plan. From there, users can apply for the plan that makes the most sense for them.

This new collaboration is just one step the Obama Administration is taking to make college more affordable and to tackle rising college costs. Read more about today’s announcement on our website.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education

Categories: Higher Education News

Behind Progress, Common Sense and Courage

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Fri, 2014-01-24 09:10

This op-ed appeared in the January 23, 2014 edition of the Washington Post.

In education, it sometimes takes courage to do what ought to be common sense.

That’s a key lesson from several recent national and international assessments of U.S. education. These include the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the nation’s report card; a new version of the NAEP focused on large, urban districts; and the international rankings in the tri-annual PISA test.

Collectively, these assessments demonstrate extraordinary progress in the places where leaders have worked hardest and most consistently to bring change — but also a national failure to make nearly enough progress to keep up with our competitors.

Secretary Duncan received feedback from students during last month’s PISA release.

Nationwide, students made modest progress in reading and math in 2013, with achievement edging up to record highs for fourth- and eighth-graders, the NAEP found.

Nearly every state has adopted higher academic standards, and most states have instituted new systems of teacher support and evaluation. It’s a testament to hardworking educators that they are implementing these changes and raising student performance at the same time.

But as the international PISA results demonstrate, our progress isn’t enough. Other countries are leapfrogging us at a time when education is vital to economic health in a global competition for jobs and innovation. Among the 65 countries and education systems that participate in PISA, the United States was surpassed by 27 in math and 14 in reading . That’s unacceptable.

We can learn, however, from some of the standouts. In contrast to a national picture of gradual progress, Tennessee and the District of Columbia reported striking jumps — in both math and reading achievement and in both grades examined, fourth and eighth.

We don’t know all the reasons why students did better in Tennessee and the District in 2013 than in 2011. But it is clear that they shared a similar approach to bettering education — taking common-sense, but politically hard, steps to help students. Both are places where vulnerable students predominate; 73 percent of District students and 55 percent of Tennessee students are sufficiently needy to qualify for reduced-price meals.

There are important lessons here. What these two places also had in common was a succession of leaders who told educators, parents and the public the truth about educational underperformance and who worked closely with educators to bring about real changes. They pushed hard to raise expectations for students, even though a lower bar would have made everyone look better. And they remained committed to doing the right thing for children, even when it meant crossing partisan lines or challenging ideological orthodoxy.

To meet those higher standards, these leaders invested in strengthening the quality of classroom instruction and revamping systems for teacher support and evaluation. They ensured that teachers could use good data from multiple sources to identify learning gaps and improve instruction. They also sought ongoing feedback from educators and others.

These concepts — developing and supporting the people who do the most important work, using data to inform improvement — are what strong organizations do.

Yet these common-sense steps took uncommon courage. Tennessee had previously set one of the lowest bars in the country for proficiency in reading and math. The resulting proficiency rates — 91 percent in math and 92 percent in reading — were a lie. By raising standards, Tennessee’s leaders forced the public, parents and politicians to confront brutal facts.

When Tennessee raised its standards in 2010, the proportion of students rated proficient dropped to 34 percent in math and 45 percent in reading. But in a bipartisan act of courage, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman stayed true to the reforms begun under Democrat Phil Bredesen. They refused to dumb down standards to try to make Tennessee students look better.

Were students actually doing worse? No. For the first time, the state was telling the truth.

Just as important, leaders in the District and Tennessee worked with educators to transform industrial-era systems of support and evaluation for teachers and principals that had little or no link to teachers’ impact on student learning. That meant continuing the work of political predecessors, as Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson did in the District.

Building better systems that take account of educators’ impact on learning is complex and controversial work. Yet in Tennessee and the District, leaders solicited input from their critics, stayed committed but flexible and delivered systems that help both successful and struggling teachers.

I’m cautious about drawing big conclusions from a two-year trend, and it’s important to track a variety of educational outcomes, such as high school graduation and college enrollment rates.

Even so, the experiences of Tennessee and the District suggest that children win when leaders work closely with educators to do several vital things right, at the same time, and don’t give up when the going gets tough.

As Henderson said: “When you concentrate on teacher quality, you get results. When you radically increase the level of academic rigor, you get results.”

To be clear, no one in Tennessee or the District is declaring victory. Students in both places have a lot further to go to close achievement gaps and even to reach the level of top-performing states. But their progress shouldn’t be treated as mysterious or miraculous.

The changes America’s children need to get a better education require political courage and hard work. But in many cases the steps are surprisingly straightforward — and can be taken anywhere.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education

Categories: Higher Education News

TurboTax Helps Spread the Word on Student-Loan Repayment Options

Chronicle of Higher Education - Fri, 2014-01-24 03:55

The popular tax-preparation site will carry a government message encouraging borrowers to sign up for an income-based repayment plan.

Categories: Higher Education News

Federal Judge Bashes Accreditor and Awards Damages to Massage School

Chronicle of Higher Education - Fri, 2014-01-24 03:55

Revoking the school's accreditation was “arbitrary and unreasonable,” the ruling says. It orders the accreditor to pay more than $400,000 in damages.

Categories: Higher Education News

Screening Freshmen Will Help Curtail Drinking, Study Finds

Chronicle of Higher Education - Fri, 2014-01-24 03:55

The researchers reviewed studies of 62 intervention programs in an effort to identify the most effective strategies for heading off alcohol abuse.

Categories: Higher Education News

Chapel Hill Researcher’s Findings on Athletes’ Literacy Bring a Backlash

Chronicle of Higher Education - Fri, 2014-01-24 03:55

Mary C. Willingham says the university's harsh criticism of her study is unfounded.

Categories: Higher Education News

Gordon Gee Still Can't Resist a Joke

Chronicle of Higher Education - Fri, 2014-01-24 03:55

West Virginia University's president sat down with The Chronicle to reflect on the troubled end of his time at Ohio State and his efforts to secure his legacy.

Categories: Higher Education News

Arne Duncan Answers Teachers’ Questions on the Role of Private Funds and Interests in Education

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Thu, 2014-01-23 15:08

As a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education— a teacher on leave from my school for one year to help bring educator voice to the policy world— I recently had the opportunity to sit down with fellow teacher Lisa Clarke and Secretary Arne Duncan to discuss the role of private interests and public education.

Lisa and I asked Secretary Duncan questions we’ve heard from some teachers in recent roundtable discussions: Is there a corporate agenda at the U.S. Department of Education? Do philanthropists like Bill Gates and Eli Broad earn the right to make decisions with their donations to public education? This short video gives us a glimpse into how decisions are made and whose interests are taken into consideration.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

This is only the start of the discussion. Keep the conversation going in the comment section below and by using #AskArne on Twitter. To be continued.

Joiselle Cunningham is a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education for the 2013-14 school year.

Categories: Higher Education News

Helping Your Student Plan for College and a Career

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Thu, 2014-01-23 09:56

Preparation is the key to success in any task, and preparing for success in college and careers should start as early as possible. This is not a task that children can do alone: a parent’s guidance and direction is needed. And, it’s never too soon to start planning for a bright future.

Help your children take the right steps to apply for the college, university, or technical training program of their choice, so they can move forward on the path to a fulfilling career.

Below is a list of things you can do together.

For those in elementary and middle school:

  • Become familiar with all the tools and information the Department offers to help your children and your family learn about college affordability and value, and about different career pathways. We provide a host of resources, including step-by-step checklists, to help your students think about exploring careers, choosing and applying to schools, and taking required tests. There are clear descriptions of the types of financial aid available from the government and other sources, including grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study. We have sections that explain who gets financial aid, how to apply, how to stay eligible, and how to get eligibility back if you’ve lost it. There are also tools to help students and families manage loans, get help with problems, and perhaps even have their debt reduced, if their students choose certain types of careers in public service.
  • When your students are in middle school, register them for classes that will prepare them for college entrance exams, like the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test or Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) and EXPLORE or PLAN preparation for American College Testing (ACT). The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test or Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) provides firsthand practice for the Scholastic Aptitude Test or Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT).  It also gives students the chance to qualify for National Merit Scholarship.
  • Have your children check with their school counselor about scholarships for which they may be qualified and might apply. Counselors have lists and resources that may be of assistance to your child.
  • Help your children research funding possibilities on the internet and at the library. You or your children may find organizations that offer scholarships or funding related to activities in which they have been involved or to careers they wish to enter.

For those in high school:

  • Have your junior and senior high school students take the ACT, PSAT or SAT.
  • Seek the advice of college and career counselors at school.  Counselors have lists and resources that can help your students map out their college and career pathways.
  • Continue to research scholarships, grants, or other funding to help pay for tuition at the college of their choice. Do this together.
  • Encourage your students to be actively involved at school – in academic and extra-curricular activities like sports, clubs, and the arts. They can also volunteer for faith-based or community organizations, or find other ways to serve, show leadership, and make a difference in the community. A young person’s activities, responsibilities, and even work experiences are all important considerations for the reviewers who read and rate applications for jobs or scholarships.
  • Encourage them to work or volunteer in workplaces that reflect their career interests.  Find out whether your school has partnership programs with area employers that allow students to explore their interests through job shadowing, internships, and other work-based learning opportunities with workplace mentors.
  • Investigate whether specific licenses or special certifications are needed for entry-level jobs in their fields of interest, and whether they can begin earning those credentials while in high school, through technical courses, youth apprenticeship programs, or other activities.
  • Find out if your students’ schools offer opportunities for them to take college-level courses for college credit through programs like dual enrollment or the early college high school model. Options like these can help to significantly reduce the time and cost of earning a degree from a two- or four- year college degree program. More and more students around the country are graduating from high school with significant amounts of transferable college credit, and some are graduating from high school with diploma and an Associate Degree – for free!
  • Make sure your students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)FAFSA form. FAFSA lets families know if their students are eligible for any federal aid. There are federal and state deadlines, and your students’ colleges of choice may also have a deadline. So, be sure to keep these timeframes in mind.
  • Visit the colleges in which they express an interest. Tour the campuses together. This can even be done through a virtual tour or a brief drive to a college during the weekend. Many colleges and universities welcome weekend visits and offer weekend tours and other activities  for potential applicants.
  • Support them as they submit applications to the colleges of their choice. Help them select their first, second, third, and fourth choices. Don’t overlook the option of attending a community or junior college.
  • Help your students tell their story through their college essay.  Most college applications require students to submit a personal essay on topics designed to help admission officers learn more about the students’ goals, achievements, experiences, influences and values – the things that make them unique. Encourage your students to take their essays seriously, and offer to help by reviewing or proofreading their drafts.  Admissions officers will focus on things like writing style, content, analysis and original thinking. Help your students stand out! And, this same essay may be enhanced for scholarship programs to which they may apply.

Success today depends on getting an education beyond high school. Parents play a vital role in helping children set their sights on success in college and careers. You can begin to today to help your children dream big – and achieve their dreams.

Carrie Jasper is director of outreach to parents and families at the U.S. Department of Education

Categories: Higher Education News

A Renewed Call to Action to End Rape and Sexual Assault

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Thu, 2014-01-23 08:50

President Barack Obama signs the Campus Sexual Assault Presidential Memorandum during a White House Council on Women and Girls meeting in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Additional Resources

As part of an unprecedented national effort to address alarming rates of sexual assault on college campuses, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum today to establish the “White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.” The taskforce will be charged with sharing best practices, and increasing transparency, enforcement, public awareness, and interagency coordination to prevent violence and support survivors. The creation of this Task Force builds upon the President’s 2010 call to action, which urged the federal government to support survivors and aggressively take action against sexual assault.

The statistics around sexual assault in this country are nothing short of jarring. A report just released by the White House Council on Women and Girls entitled, “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” reveals that nearly 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. These statistics are stunning, but still can’t begin to capture the emotional and psychological scars that survivors often carry for life, or the courage needed to recover.

President Barack Obama signs the Campus Sexual Assault Presidential Memorandum during a White House Council on Women and Girls meeting in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Today’s report states that students experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault. This violence, and the stress, fear, and mental health challenges that often follow, combine to increase dropout rates and limit opportunities for success in college for women and girls. The Administration is committed to investing in women’s education, training, and full inclusion in the workforce, and the President strongly believes that combatting sexual assault is vital to that effort.

It’s important that we keep the faces, and life-stories of our women and girls in mind as we continue this work. My office was recently connected with a young woman named Lauren who had personally experienced an attack, and who began to speak out last year in hopes that she may help more women deal with the pain, and complex layers of grief that afflict millions of women in this country every year.

Lauren was raped during her sophomore year in college, by someone she knew and trusted. This is the case more often than not. The trauma of her attack was debilitating on several levels, but as she put it, it was her inability to tell anyone was caused the most harm. She worried it was her fault. Had she drank too much? Did she lead him on? Did he not hear her say “no?” Was it no one’s fault at all, because he had been drinking too?

Lauren put on a brave face to make her way to classes, to work, and across campus, day in and day out, but her heart ache was profound. She felt unsafe, unclean, and consumed by unrelenting feelings of guilt, shame, and anger. For six months, Lauren bore that pain in her heart, and retreating from the world; crying through most nights, and skipping most meals. She couldn’t eat, she struggled to interact with her friends and loved ones, she felt perpetually on the verge of tears, and at times couldn’t find the strength to get out of bed for days at a time.

With time, and eventually, the aide of a psychiatrist, and friends and family who she felt comfortable sharing her story with, Lauren began to find her way back. Every survivor’s story, and the challenges they face is unique, but ‘unique’ in this case, unfortunately does not mean rare. Lauren’s story is the story of millions of women, and one that we must never forget. In the years since, she has used her voice and her writing to raise awareness and advocate for other survivors. She is doing everything in her power to make sure that women know that what happened to her is wrong and inexcusable. It is deserved by no one. And it is her right to tell her story without shame or fear. Lauren is not alone, and we should all join in her in making sure that no one facing this kind of pain ever feels that they are.

We all have roles to play in preventing experiences like these. Through better education and awareness training for our young women. Through the improved mentorship and socialization of our boys and young men. Through the empowerment of bystanders to recognize dangerous situations and to speak up.Through improved survivor support services, and more victim-centered incident intake and justice response policies on our campuses.

President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, delivers remarks during a White House Council on Women and Girls meeting in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault builds on federal efforts already underway which seek to break devastating cycles of violence on campuses, and around the country. For example:

  • In 2012, the federal government issued a revised definition of rape that includes rapes of men, and which better reflects the realities of sexual assault. This new definition will improve our understanding of where and how often this crime occurs.
  • In 2011, the Department of Education and Vice President Joe Biden announced historic guidance to help schools understand their obligations to prevent and respond to campus sexual assault, as well as increase federal compliance and enforcement actions.
  • President Obama signed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in March 2013. The revised legislation includes protections for LGBT, Native American, and immigrant victims that experience some of the highest rates of violence. VAWA also funds specialized training for law enforcement and prosecutors. In order to support survivors in the healthcare system, the legislation increases funding for specially trained sexual assault nurse examiners.

Both the President, and all of us on the Council on Women and Girls are committed to ending sexual assault and supporting survivors by improving school responses to violence, bettering criminal justice responses to survivors, and committing vital resources where it will do the most good. The Administration will also work empower both women and men to stand up against sexual assault, in order to change a culture of passivity and tolerance in this country, which too often allows this type of violence to persist.

We can and must change our nation’s attitudes toward these devastating crimes, and we all have a role to play in preventing violence, and supporting the millions of survivors across the country as they seek to rebuild their lives. The President has renewed his call to action to bring an end to sexual assault, and his entire team is eager to partner across government education, academia, and communities everywhere to ensure that our women and girls feel safe, secure, and in position to thrive when they head to school, and out into the world.

Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement

Categories: Higher Education News

Obama Promises Governmentwide Scrutiny of Campus Rape

Chronicle of Higher Education - Thu, 2014-01-23 03:59

Colleges need to do more to keep students safe, the president said. He announced a new effort to address the issue.

Categories: Higher Education News

For-Profit College Becomes a 'Public-Benefit Corporation'

Chronicle of Higher Education - Wed, 2014-01-22 23:14

Rasmussen College says the change aligns with its community-service goals. It might also help meet an accreditor's call for colleges to serve the public good.

Categories: Higher Education News

Public-University Group Offers Alternative to Obama's College-Rating Plan

Chronicle of Higher Education - Wed, 2014-01-22 14:48

Expanded disclosures and tighter standards for receiving federal student aid are better paths to accountability, says the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

Categories: Higher Education News

Take Part in National Drug Facts Week

U.S. Department of Education Blog - Wed, 2014-01-22 09:28

Every day our students are bombarded with conflicting messages related to drug use, and they may be confused and unsure who to ask for accurate information. With seven percent of teens reporting abuse of prescription drugs in the past year and 23 percent of 12th graders reporting using marijuana in the past month, it’s crucial to provide them with the facts.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is holding the third annual “National Drug Facts Week” from January 27 – February 2, 2014, and educators and schools have the opportunity to help shatter the myths about drug use. There are plenty of ways for you to get engaged, including:

The Department of Education has created numerous resources to assist schools and colleges, as well as parents, in preventing illicit drug use. We are pleased our federal colleagues at NIDA have created such an array resources for students and schools, and that they provide this annual opportunity for students to chat one on one with NIDA researchers, and to better educate themselves on how drugs can impact their lives.

Find out more online at:

Norris Dickard is Healthy Students Group Leader in ED’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students

Categories: Higher Education News

How Liberal-Arts Majors Fare Over the Long Haul

Chronicle of Higher Education - Wed, 2014-01-22 03:59

While they start out making less than those in professional and pre-professional majors, that changes by peak earning years, a new report says.

Categories: Higher Education News
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