Education

The CDC Gives U.S. Schools Low Marks In Sex Ed

Dec 10, 2015

Fewer than one-fifth of middle schools — and half of high schools — are teaching all of the sex education topics recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new study reveals.

The CDC report found that, for every age group, the least likely topics to be taught were how to get and use condoms.

The Senate voted 85-12 on Wednesday to pass the long-awaited rewrite of the much-maligned No Child Left Behind law. President Obama says he'll sign it Thursday.

The new version — called the Every Student Succeeds Act — returns much government oversight of schools to the states and curtails or eliminates the federal role in many areas. Critics of NCLB are celebrating its demise.

But the question now is, what exactly are states and local school districts going to do that they couldn't do before?

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote as soon as Wednesday on replacing the nation's big education law, known since 2001 as No Child Left Behind.

And President Obama is expected to sign the new version, ending an era marked by bitter fights between the federal government, states and schools.

So as it dies, we thought an obituary was in order.

Yup, an obituary. Because the law's critics and defenders all agree on one thing: No Child Left Behind took on a life of its own.

If you pull into Hertford County High School in northeastern North Carolina, pass the bus circle and the soccer fields, and continue to a patch of woods, you find three, cheerful, two-story apartment buildings. Knock on any door here and you'll find the home of a teacher or employee of the local school district.

Google products are growing as ubiquitous in classrooms as dry-erase markers. The most recent numbers show that more than half of classroom computers purchased for U.S. schools are low-cost Chromebooks. And 50 million students, teachers and administrators use Google Apps For Education, a group of tools that includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and the purpose-built Google Classroom.

Every morning, the familiar routine plays out in hundreds of thousands of classrooms: A teacher looks out over the desks, taking note of who's in their seats and who isn't.

On any given day, maybe there are one or two empty chairs. One here, one there. And that all goes into the school's daily attendance rate.

But here's what that morning ritual doesn't show: That empty desk? It might be the same one that was empty last week or two weeks ago. The desk of a student who has racked up five, 10, 20 absences this year.

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, used the occasion of their daughter's birth to announce they'll be investing nearly all their fortune, some $45 billion, in good causes.

For our Tools of the Trade series, we're exploring the iconic, seminal tools that some of us remember using in our early schooling. Things like the slide rule and protractor, the Bunsen burner and the planetarium.

It's almost a decade overdue, but the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote later today on a bill to replace the No Child Left Behind law.

Since NCLB was signed by President George W. Bush in early 2002, the federal government has played a major role in telling states how to run — and reform — their schools. But this new bill signals a sea change in the federal approach.

Our Ideas series is exploring how innovation happens in education.

Almost all college students have a cellphone. They use them an average of eight to 10 hours a day and check them an average of every 15 to 20 minutes while they're awake.

Heavier smartphone use has been linked to lower-quality sleep and lower GPAs — oh, are you getting a text right now?

I'll wait.

Anyway, as I was saying, one professor at the University of Colorado Boulder has come up with a solution to smartphone distraction in one of his astronomy classes.

Our Tools of the Trade series examines iconic objects of the education world.

The 24 juniors and seniors in the astronomy class at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Va., sink into plush red theater seats. They're in a big half-circle around what looks like a giant telescope with a globe on the end. Their teacher, Lee Ann Hennig, stands at a wooden control panel which, appropriately, has enough buttons and dials to launch a rocket.

There is a letter that school districts really don't like sending home to parents of special education students. Each state has a different version, but they all begin with something like this:

"Dear Parent, as of the date of this letter your child's teacher is not considered 'highly qualified.' " And then: "This doesn't mean your child's teacher is not capable or effective. It means they haven't met the state standards for teaching in their subject."

Federal law does not prohibit undocumented students from enrolling in college, but it does something nearly as effective, banning them from receiving government aid. In recent years, though, some undocumented students have stumbled upon a little-known, nonprofit online university that doesn't charge tuition and doesn't care about students' legal status.

High school graduation rates are on the rise across the country, except for one segment of the population: They've dropped dramatically for people in prison or jail who need to get their GED diplomas.

Since a new version of the General Education Development test came out last year, the pass rate for inmates has plummeted. Formerly, it was a multiple-choice test taken with a pencil. Not any longer: The test has joined the computer age, abandoning handwritten essays and instead requiring computer skills some inmates simply don't have.

One in 10 teachers will quit by the end of their first year — and getting through October and November is especially tough. Having someone to support you along the way can help.

Turns out there's a toolkit to help — as we wrote about this week. Thousands chimed in on Facebook and Twitter, and in the comments section. Here are some takeaways from the discussion.

The "disillusionment phase" goes by another name:

Sheree Woods is sitting in her car in the parking lot of a mini-mall in a Los Angeles suburb, with the air conditioning blasting.

She's here for a huge sale.

Woods is a high school art teacher at Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, a big magnet school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Every year, like countless other teachers around the country, she digs deep into her own pocket for school supplies.

Our Ideas series is exploring innovation in education.

Some version of this criticism has likely echoed since the rise of compulsory schooling during the Progressive era: Teachers tend to teach to the middle, leaving struggling students feeling lost and more advanced students bored.

Everyone too often gets the same books, material, homework. The same level of difficulty.

Many people have experienced the magic of a wonderful teacher, and we all know anecdotally that these instructors can change our lives. But what if a teacher and a student don't connect? How does that affect the education that child receives?

Is there a way to create a connection where there isn't one? And how might that change things, for teachers and students alike?

Madalitso Mulando knew what she needed to finish 10th grade: $150.

That's the cost of tuition at Chinika Secondary School, a public high school in Lusaka, Zambia.

Completing 10th grade was part of Mulando's dream to go to medical school and become a doctor.

But the 15-year-old's parents were broke.

"Yeah, I was alone. I was in my bedroom ... and I started, like, crying because Mom and Dad didn't have any money," she remembers. "And I was like, maybe I'll never go to school again because Mom and Dad didn't have any money."

"The value of my education is priceless, but the value of my education is also not $140,000 in debt."

That was the statement of a Hunter College graduate with a master's degree, as quoted in the documentary Ivory Tower. And a new national poll suggests that thousands of graduates, especially younger graduates, agree with her.

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