Education

Ways to Connect

Florida is poised to become the first state to allow computer coding to fulfill a foreign-language requirement in high school. In a competitive job market, the thinking goes, computer skills are as important as speaking another language.

At SAIL High School in Tallahassee, a 3-D printer whirs away. It's turning PVC pipe into a red, Lego-like piece for a robot.

This is the OctoPiRates robotics club. These students will soon compete in a national contest with their hand-built robot. It features a square, metal frame with eight rubber wheels and a scooping arm.

When Samuel Smith graduated with a master's in engineering from Cornell, he thought the $190,000 in debt he incurred would pay off. But it took him a while to land job at a software firm in Austin, Texas. And now, after paying $1,750 a month in loan payments, rent and food, he says he doesn't have much left over.

He doesn't own a TV and says "it'd be nice to go out for drinks once in a while."

Standing at the foot of Mount Wachusett's slopes, Ray Jackman bends over and hoists Robbie McAllister out of his wheelchair and onto two neon yellow skis.

The teenager squeezes into a thick plastic seat mounted just above the skis.

"OK, there are a bunch of straps," says Jackman as he buckles the crisscrossing seatbelts.

Jackman is a program coordinator at the Massachusetts Hospital School, a state-run facility. It's half school, half pediatric hospital, and all 85 students are patients, with serious, long-term conditions.

"Stronger Together" is not the name of the latest social-media fitness app. It's a grant proposed in President Obama's new budget, reviving an idea that hasn't gotten much policy attention in decades: diversity in public schools. If the request is approved, $120 million will go to school districts for programs intended to make their schools more diverse.

For one day, kids at Milwaukee College Prep's 36th Street campus aren't wearing their uniforms. Instead, they're decked out in suits and dresses for the first-ever Academy Awards of Excellence.

Office administrator Tanya Griffin plays paparazzi by snapping pictures of students, parents and teachers as they step in front of a gold backdrop.

"Who are you wearing?" Griffin asks parents as they make their way down the red carpet — plastic runners taped to the linoleum floor.

Marley Dias is like a lot of 11-year-olds: She loves getting lost in a book.

But the books she was reading at school were starting to get on her nerves. She enjoyed Where The Red Fern Grows and the Shiloh series, but those classics, found in so many elementary school classrooms, were all about white boys or dogs ... or white boys and their dogs, Marley says.

Black girls, like Marley, were almost never the main character.

When Taevin Lewis first arrived at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis — a long plane ride from her native Tennessee — she was a little lost.

"I didn't know where to go," remembers the sophomore biology major. "I didn't know where a lot of the offices were."

And it wasn't just the campus map. She didn't know some of the basics of college life: How to sign up for classes, how to sign up for a campus job, how to maintain a checkbook.

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Nike co-founder and Chairman Philip Knight has pledged $400 million to Stanford University for a new scholarship program aimed at tackling major global challenges.

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One cold Monday this month, all the students of Park Ridge High School stayed home: wearing their PJs, munching on pretzels and Oreos, hanging out on the couch.

It wasn't a snow day or measles epidemic. It was the school's first Virtual Day, where in-person classes were replaced with written lessons and real-time video chats delivered online.

The idea arose because the school, just north of New York City in Park Ridge, N.J., issued every student a Mac laptop last year, says Tina Bacolas, the school's head of instructional technology.

Book publishers love stories about first-year teachers. The narrative arc is familiar: Exuberant idealism fades as the teacher battles entrenched bureaucracy, stale curriculum and disengaged colleagues or kids. The young educator then tries to overcome despair with creative grit and determination and struggles to make a difference.

The books often teeter between self-promotion and slams against the public education system. Some, however, actually shed light on the yawning gap between reformist rhetoric and classroom reality.

High school students nationwide are filling out college financial aid forms — and it's not just seniors this year.

Some changes are on the horizon to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. For one, the form can be submitted much earlier. One student capitalizing on the early deadline is Isaac Horwitz-Hirsch, a junior at Santa Monica High School.

But Horwitz-Hirsch and his parents, Joshua Hirsch and Ruth Horwitz have found that the new changes to the FAFSA are hard to understand.

"The financial aid part is really confusing," Horwitz-Hirsch says.

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