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History Proficiency Low in America

July 5, 2011

History Proficiency Low in America

by Alexis Mattera

Do you know who becomes our nation’s leader if the current president and vice president should both die? Who said “Give me liberty or give me death?” Not sure of the answers? Neither are American students.

According to the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress test – an exam that measures proficiency in mathematics, reading, history, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics and geography – American students just aren’t “getting” American History. The results revealed high school seniors have the worst grasp on the subject with an 87-percent failure rate, followed by eighth graders (82 percent) and fourth graders (78 percent). These marks should be cause for parent-teacher conferences...except when the CBS affiliate in Boiling Springs, South Carolina asked locals some sample exam questions, not one person could answer how many justices sit on the U.S. Supreme Court or name the Chief Justice and only one person could name South Carolina's two U.S. Senators and who American patriots fought against in the Revolutionary War.

Sure, not everyone is a history major and most people don’t have careers requiring the recollection of these facts on a daily basis but being informed about the country you call home is never a bad thing. Check out some of the questions here then tell us what you would do to increase these unsatisfactory scores.

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Illinois Erases High School Writing Exam

July 6, 2011

Illinois Erases High School Writing Exam

by Alexis Mattera

Assessing students’ writing skills takes a keen eye, an open mind and – sometimes – a lot of red ink. In an effort to save some green, however, Illinois has eliminated its last standardized state writing exam.

The writing assessments for elementary and middle school students were dropped last year but now Illinois high school juniors no longer will be tested on writing skills. Though the move is saving the state about $2.4 million, educators are worried it will impact the focus on and resources for writing skills in Illinois classrooms. They speculate reading and math will take precedence, as these two subjects are used to measure public schools’ performance under the No Child Left Behind Act. According to Barbara Kato, director of the Chicago Area Writing Project, there has already been a shift: When the state nixed the elementary and middle school grade school writing tests last year, requests for teacher training in writing instruction plummeted.

Oregon and Missouri have also eliminated writing-centric exams but others, like Washington, have managed to preserve funding despite serious budget deficits. What do you think about Illinois’ educational editing? Do you think eliminating the writing exam will be doing a disservice to students?

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Blogging Bridges the Digital Divide

July 25, 2011

Blogging Bridges the Digital Divide

by Alexis Mattera

Teaching students how to write (and write well) has long been a challenge for educators. Sure, there are always those students with a knack for style and syntax but how can teachers get less-proficient or ESL students excited about writing and bridge the digital divide at the same time? Through blogging.

Jon Schwartz, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher from Oceanside, Calif., found that more than 60 percent of his students “came from households where English was the second language, or wasn’t spoken at all." To increase their interest in writing, Schwartz forewent the traditional pencil-to-paper route and introduced his students to blogging. After teaching them the basics, Schwartz required each student to submit a 90- to 100-word writing assignment each day. They had the option to turn in their assignments via the blog or on paper but after hearing how much some of Schwartz’s former students enjoyed blogging, almost all of them opted for the digital method.

From there, Schwartz said "creativity and productivity skyrocketed because they knew that their work had the potential to be viewed quickly by an authentic audience that mattered to them." In addition to the new-found enthusiasm about writing – Schwartz’s students continue to blog on their own time even when no assignment is required and utilize the Internet for research – the project has helped to bridge the digital divide. "If they aren’t trained to use the computer as a tool for learning, work, and personal growth, they’ll not be able to compete in high school, college, and job markets."

What do you think of Schwartz’s experiment? Would a program like this one get you more interested in writing in and out of the classroom?

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Head Out of State for an In-State Price

July 27, 2011

Head Out of State for an In-State Price

by Alexis Mattera

Scenario: Your dream school is beyond state boundaries but your college fund is more suited to a college closer to home. Don't fret: If you know what and where you want to study, you could score an impressive tuition break through a regional discount program. Here's the breakdown:

New England Regional Student Program: Students living in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Vermont could be eligible for average savings of $7,000 per year through this program if they enroll in a degree program not available at public schools in their home state. One drawback – if majors are changed, recipients may no longer be eligible for the tuition break.

Academic Common Market: Southerners (aka those living in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia or West Virginia) follow the same guidelines as the NERSP but with some additional restrictions. For example, schools in Florida, North Carolina, and Texas only offer tuition reductions at the graduate level.

Western Undergraduate Exchange: Do you live in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington or Wyoming and want $7,500 per year in average college savings? WUE requirements vary from state to state and campus to campus but more than 26,000 residents took advantage of the program last year...so, interested students, apply early to ensure funding.

Midwest Student Exchange Program: Students from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota or Wisconsin can save an average of $4,274 per year on tuition without being restricted by majors. The catch is that schools (public and private this time) can limit what degree programs qualify for this discount.

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New Study Explores Higher Ed Stratification

August 11, 2011

New Study Explores Higher Ed Stratification

by Alexis Mattera

Money may not be able to buy happiness or love but a new study shows it’s an integral factor in getting into college.

The study – “Running in Place: Low-Income Students and the Dynamics of Higher Education Stratification” – reveals that despite efforts to attract and enroll more low-income students, such students are still more likely to attend community colleges or noncompetitive four-year universities than more elite schools. These students are indeed taking the steps necessary to increase their grades and standardized test scores but their wealthier counterparts are taking wider, faster strides toward the same goal.

According to the study’s lead author and associate professor of higher education at the University of Michigan Michael N. Bastedo, “The distance between academic credentials for wealthy students and low-income students is getting longer and longer...and that’s despite the fact that low-income students are rising in their own academic achievement.” Selective colleges claim they want to bring in more low-income students but the study’s authors say ancillary factors like higher/better job placement and more generous alumni are proving detrimental.

There is much more to the study here including the authors’ suggestions for improving equity (i.e., optional SATs, greater access to Advanced Placement and honors courses). Take a look and share your thoughts!

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Need Merit Aid? Apply Here!

August 10, 2011

Need Merit Aid? Apply Here!

by Alexis Mattera

A few months back, we wrote about helpful tips on maximizing merit aid, or aid based on a student’s attributes like academics, athletics and extracurriculars. For college applicants who aren’t deemed financially needy in terms of their FAFSA or EFC, merit aid can make a huge difference in the schools they can realistically afford to attend. Students and families seeking this extra financial aid boost should consider researching schools more likely to dispense merit-based awards but with so many colleges and universities in the U.S., which ones are the best financial bets?

Help has arrived in the form of U.S. News, which has compiled a top 10 list of schools that awarded the highest percentage of merit-based funding to non-needy students during the 2009-10 academic year (the stats do not include financially needy students who were given merit aid or students who received athletic scholarships or other tuition breaks). Take a look:

High school students, does this data have you looking at these schools in a new light? Current college students attending one of the schools listed above, did merit aid make the difference as to whether or not you enrolled?

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Bradley Adds Interactive App to Customize Campus Tour Experience

September 9, 2011

Bradley Adds Interactive App to Customize Campus Tour Experience

by Alexis Mattera

It can be difficult for prospective college students and their parents to visit the campuses they’re interested in when classes are in session so instead, tours are often scheduled on weekends or between semesters. Though this may be more convenient, it’s harder for the tour takers to get a true feel for the school they may one day call their alma mater...unless their tour is taking place at Bradley University.

Though colleges have long employed virtual tours, Bradley could be the first to provide a complementary iPad application during in-person campus tours. Jim Ferolo, an associate professor and chair of Bradley’s interactive media department who helped come up with the idea, said the app is meant to give students a fuller sense of what campus life is like if they visit during off-peak hours. In addition to supplementary videos, the app suggests particular spots on campus to see depending on the data (intended majors, extracurricular interests, etc.) users input at the beginning of the tour, all of which are routed to the tour guides’ iPads to best customize each tour. Ferolo said the app is not meant to replace the traditional campus tours at Bradley but his department will track how prospective students use the application so it can be improved – possibly with on-the-fly likes and ratings – down the line.

Sounds pretty cool to us but what do you think? Would you be interested in using an app like Bradley's on a campus tour or would you rather get a feel for a school sans technology?

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Slurp Up This Scholarship of the Week!

Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Deadline is October 31st

October 3, 2011

Slurp Up This Scholarship of the Week!

by Alexis Mattera

An icy glass of Coca-Cola is a pretty tasty treat but for high school seniors, money for college is an even more refreshing reward. Enter the perfect combination of the two: the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Four Year Award for Seniors.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Program scholarship is an achievement-based scholarship awarded to 250 high school seniors each year. Fifty of these are four-year $20,000 scholarships ($5,000 per year for four years), while 200 are designated as four-year $10,000 scholarships ($2,500 per year for four years). The scholarships must be used at an accredited U.S. college or university.

In order to be eligible for a Coca-Cola scholarship, a student must be:

  • a CURRENT high school or home-school senior anticipating graduation from a school or program in the United States during the academic year in which application is made
  • a U.S. Citizen, U.S. National, U.S. Permanent Resident, Temporary Resident (legalization program), Refugee, Asylee, Cuban-Haitian Entrant or Humanitarian Parolee
  • planning to pursue a degree at an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution
  • carrying a minimum 3.0 GPA at the end of your junior year of high school

The deadline to apply is October 31st but we always recommend applying as early as possible. For more information about this award, conduct a free scholarship search today. Best of luck!

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College Branding Kicks Into High Gear

October 4, 2011

College Branding Kicks Into High Gear

by Alexis Mattera

During your college search, what drew you to certain schools and what made you cross others off your list? The financial aid package could have been just right or the tuition could have been too high to manage without taking out multiple student loans. Maybe there was a big focus on your major or maybe the dorms were haunted. Those are all valid reasons but some experts think it may have been because the school marketed itself too much, too little or in a way you just couldn’t relate to.

When compared to the methods employed in the corporate world, marketing and branding in higher ed has been lacking. The tides are beginning to turn, however, as people like David R. Perry come to campus. Perry, a former marketing officer with Microsoft, Quaker Oats and the Seattle Children’s Hospital, recently began working as the chief marketing officer at Bentley University and much of his job will be figuring out exactly what Bentley offers and should be offering, to whom the school should be offering it, and how to get this message to potential students, families, faculty members and the surrounding community. "You have to be crisp and clear about what you are and what you're not," Perry said. "With all the choices students and families have today, with the education market as competitive as it is, as an institution you have to define strengths and weaknesses and focus on where you put your resources."

Bentley isn't the only college reevaluating its branding efforts (check out what college marketing officials at Temple, Michigan and the University of New Haven have to say in this Inside Higher Ed article) but we’re curious: Would a college’s marketing and branding initiatives make or break your college decision or would you be more focused on other factors?

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Boo! Short & Tweet is Back for October!

Your Scariest College-Related Experience Could Earn You $1,000 or a Kindle

October 5, 2011

Boo! Short & Tweet is Back for October!

by Alexis Mattera

Applying to and attending college can be the best time of your life but it can also be the scariest! Did your guidance counselor forget to include your transcript in your application packet? Were you matched with a freshman roommate who had an aversion to soap? We want to know: Tell us your scariest college-related experience in 140 characters for a chance to win $1,000 or a Kindle for college through our latest Short & Tweet Twitter Scholarship!

Don’t be scared – entering is easy! Simply log on to Twitter (or create an account if you don’t already have one), follow us and mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in your tweet detailing your scariest college-related experience. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how to apply:

Step 1: Follow @Scholarshipscom on Twitter.

Step 2: Mention us (@Scholarshipscom) in a tweet answering the question “What is your scariest college-related moment?” Once you do this, you are entered to win a $1,000 scholarship or one of two Kindles.

Step 3: You may enter as many times as you want but please limit your tweets to five per day. Each tweet will be a stand-alone entry and tweets that are submitted by non-followers, exceed 140 characters, do not include @Scholarshipscom or are submitted after the October 31st deadline will not be considered. From there, the Scholarships.com Team will determine which comments are most deserving of the awards.

  • Starts: October 5th
  • Ends: October 31st
  • Number Available: 3
  • Amount: $1,000 for one first-place winner; one Kindle each for second- and third-place winners

This scholarship competition is offered by Scholarships.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Twitter.

For official rules, please click here.

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