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Cheating Cloud Comes Over Sunshine State

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Allegations of cheating on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) have surfaced at a St. Petersburg area elementary school, marking the first time in state history a school grade has been withheld to allow for an investigation.

The state Department of Education ordered an internal probe into the matter after an unusual amount of students were providing the same wrong answers on the same questions. According to a state analysis, the likelihood of this being coincidental is less than one in one trillion.

If the investigation does reveal cheating had occurred, district officials say it would not have been enough to alter the school grade. Those at the state level insist there is no automatic assumption of foul play.

Cheating scandals are nothing new, and Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform notes that cheating “is a much more widespread problem than Atlanta or Philadelphia,” two municipal districts notoriously plagued by a culture of educator-driven cheating.

Regarding cheating scandals, Kerwin says, “it’s important that we set high expectations. The problem is with low quality educators or administrators who aren’t up to par. There are these tenure policies that keep poor performers in the classroom for a long time.”

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Funding Comprehensives and Charters

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On July 21st, I attended an event at the American Enterprise Institute called “Comprehending Comprehensive Universities.” A fitting title – since my exact purpose in visiting the institute was to learn more about what a comprehensive university is. KC Deane, Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program Manager, spoke to this question first.

Like many other panelists, she defined a comprehensive university by what it is not. A comprehensive university is not a research university. It is also not a community college or a flagship institution. Rather, a comprehensive university is best defined as a four-year, public university. Alisha Hicklin Fryar, an associate professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma, urged the audience to think of “state schools and the University of’s;” Fryar insisted that most of these schools will be comprehensive universities, and often times the backbone of higher education. Her research indicates that 69% of undergraduates are enrolled in such institutions. Diversity in student population is largely present: 74% Latino, 70% Native American, and 65% African-Americans. Comprehensive universities are also diverse in size, ranging from 711 to 56,326 students. They are located in 400 of 535 congressional districts.

Fryar further mentioned that the majority of students enrolled in comprehensive universities are graduate students, studying topics focusing on education, business, and health. Such institutions work to train a large majority of the workforce, yet they are only minimally studied (compared to community colleges, research universities, etc.). They also receive less funding than other university models.

In a way, comprehensive universities remind me of charter schools – a lot of people today do not know exactly how to define a charter perhaps in the same way that they might not know how to define a comprehensive university. Yet, much like comprehensives, charter schools serve a larger part of

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A New, Innovative Way to Help Children Master Social and Emotional Learning

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Meet Mose.

Mose is a highly functional 8 1/2 year old kid with Asperger syndrome who plays an adventure game called IF… to help him understand and manage his emotions.

Brendan, Mose’s father, says, “Mose, like a lot of aspie kids, is smart enough to recognize that he doesn’t totally fit in with everybody else, but doesn’t have the social and emotional intelligence to know what to do about it. I feel like the IF… game has given us tools to talk about his fears, and what is going on in his head when on the surface he gets angry at school, and how underneath he might be feeling guilty or insecure – like Cinda and her baby vim in the game.”

Watch below to hear more about how IF… has helped Brendan and Mose, straight from Mose himself:

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