All-Digital Curriculum Pushed Throughout the Nation
Education officials have begun work on the completely digital curriculum which they will be implementing in the next few years. Replacing the need for written textbooks, worksheets and printed study guides, the digital curriculum promises to change the face of classroom learning throughout the nation. Because this new system will run on renewable resources, this limits the need for environmentally-taxing materials and limits the consumption of paper.
The Obama administration has set aside a hefty sum to be able to implement high-speed internet in more than 15,000 schools all over the country. Last Friday it was announced that $400 million worth of corporate commitments have been made by software companies Adobe and Prezi which will be donating their software and materials to the program. Most schools have already begun buying laptops and tablets for their students to use.
Other software companies are also joining in, developing educational materials for other grade levels which haven’t yet been tapped by the Obama project. Amplify, another leading software company has also gotten in on the project. They will be distributing a digital English arts curriculum for different middle schools this year. The digital education project offered by Amplify includes reading material, interactive games and writing activities along with an app which allows the teachers to track students’ performance as well as give feedback directly to the students.
Joel Klein, New York’s former chancellor for public schools and current chief executive officer of Amplify said last week that this program which costs $45 a year per student is special because of its interactive quality—he stresses that these aren’t just “souped-up PDFs” but are programs made especially to match the middle school curriculum.
McGraw-Hill, a company best known for its textbooks has announced a partnership with Study Sync, a company which develops online curriculum tools. StudySync’s programs have been distributed in over 22,00 schools nationwide. McGraw-Hill’s partnership with StudySync produces materials which are priced at a third of Amplify’s programs.
Scholastic, Inc. the children’s book publishers (perhaps most famed for bringing Harry Potter to the United States) have also been improving their digital program called Read 180 which helps students with reading difficulties and disabilities. Thus far, Read 180 is being distributed in more than 44,000 classrooms. They’ve also announced the development of a new digital program in the works, this time for a more generalized audience called Codex. This, like Amplify’s program is going to be targeted toward middle schools. So far, 4,300 classrooms are using the first version of Codex.
Although more expensive, Mr. Klein of Amplify says that their digital curriculum has been extensively labored over and is probably the most up-to-date of available digital programs. For example, students don’t just learn vocabulary words—they learn to use them properly in a social media context. They aim to teach students how to use social media for proper communication: one of the exercises include properly utilizing vocabulary words as hashtags on Twitter—when is it appropriate to turn a word into a hashtag? When is it not? The software also include fun games and videos which help the students feel more involved in the curriculum. Certain discussions on books and plays include intense scenes from their movie adaptations. Also, for example the unit on Edgar Allan Poe includes a fun game where clues are given to try and solve the author’s mysterious murder. They’ve invested more than $100 million in the education arts project to date.
However, despite the eagerness and enthusiasm of publishers and educators to go digital, the digital education programs have had a tough roll-out because of (ironically) students’ proficiency with digital media. For example, last year the Los Angeles Unified School District spent $1 billion to give all of their students an iPad loaded with digital programs from Pearson: in less than a few months, students had overridden the system to access non-school related websites and programs. Because of this, Amplify’s own program, which was set to launch shortly after Pearson’s, had to postpone its launch in the interest of tightening their tablet’s security.
The teachers’ trust in Amplify has been divided—Mr. Klein had a controversial term as the public schools chancellor and the head of development, Mr. Murdoch was entangled in the phone-hacking scandal which rippled through the nation last year. Some teachers say that the technology is so well-developed that judgment for the past failures of both officials can be put aside whereas others say that this company is merely a means to monopolize more of the market. Other educators say that who makes the material is irrelevant—various platforms from various companies can be used in the interest of furthering learning via technology.
College Board Announces Major SAT Changes
The College Board president David Coleman recently announced that he was intensely dissatisfied with the present state of the SAT or the Scholastic Aptitude Test—a test that was formulated by a team he himself lead a few years ago. He says that presently, the SAT requires a lot of tedious work that doesn’t have a lot to do with academic skills, thus failing its purpose as a predictor of college-level aptitude. Last Wednesday, the board announced that they would be doing an overhaul of the test, rethinking its fundamental curriculum and purpose.
This week, they made the announcement that they would be doing away with the obligatory essay, removing the penalty for guessing wrong and eliminating obscure vocabulary words. Mr. Coleman also announced that the College Board will be making an effort to reach out to students from lower-income brackets, encouraging them to apply to universities by giving them four free applications to four colleges of their choice. Furthermore, the College Board will be running free tutorials and practice exercises online, in partnership with the Khan Academy, a free online tutoring service lead by Salaman Khan, an M.I.T. graduate. The questions and problems given in these tutorials will be taken from old SAT tests.
Other changes to the exam include the complete re-programming of the math unit: instead of trying to include a wide variety of questions from different mathematical fields that the students may not have encountered before, they decided to focus on the most practical of the math categories, all of which are taken up in high school—the new questions will focus on functions, linear equations and proportions. Because of this new development, however, calculators will no longer be allowed during the math portion of the test.
In place of the mandatory essay, the new SAT will instead have a portion called Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, which will focus on the formulation of cohesive papers, focusing on words often used in the academe such as conclusive, synthesis and extrapolation. There will be an optional essay which will be scored separately than the rest of the SAT.
The scoring of the SATs will also be reverting back to the old 1600 system, which was changed to the 2400 score in 2005.
The recalibration of the SATs are a result of the rising popularity of the ACT or American College Testing, an alternative test which bases its questions directly on the present curriculum which high schools implement. As of 2013, more students have taken the ACT because of its more relevant coverage.
Furthermore, a significant number of colleges have found that evaluating a student’s over-all performance throughout high school is a better indicator than a score on a standardized test. Reviewing students’ academic history allows colleges into a better look at how the student performs and whether or not they improved throughout their four years in secondary education. Because of this, a lot of colleges have listed their applications as test-optional, foregoing the need to take the standard tests altogether and evaluating applicants solely on their admissions essays, high school transcript of records and the admissions interview.
Mr. Coleman, who has been with the College Board since 2012 has been talking about making changes to the SAT since 2005. He admits that they made a lot of mistakes in the earlier formulation of the questions, losing their better judgment to circumstances of convenience and politics. While a lot of the things wrong with the SATs according to Mr. Coleman were there even before he had been anywhere near the test, he still claims responsibility for it. He goes onto say that the present test breeds injustice and inaccuracy within the academic system—even if it isn’t his fault, he insists that it is definitely his problem.
In an effort to encourage critical thinking among students, one of the major changes which will be implemented in the SATs is the need to justify answers to certain questions. The justifications will be taken into consideration when grading the test. In particular, the former-Essay portion will shift in this direction—students will be made to talk about real-life experiences and made to argue points for which they will be graded based on the critical value of their arguments and not based on a certain moral or social standpoint. Source documents will also be included for certain questions, testing the students’ ability to cite references and use them as a jumping-off point for their arguments. Questions on science will also be added in this portion, making up for the SAT’s lack of a science portion (which is present in the ACT).
All of these changes will be launched in 2016.
Students with English as a Second Language Perform Well on the GSCEs
According the official GSCE figures released this week, students who aren’t native English speakers have outperformed students who have spoken English since childhood. Oddly enough, this went not just for the language portion of the exams but also for the other core subjects such as the different maths, most of the sciences and history. Students with English as a second language aced the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) exam which is the most important of the GSCEs, being the government’s key measure of a student’s success. They outdid their English-born classmates by a whopping 16.6%. The exam numbers showed that the lowest performing students were English-born, male students from working class backgrounds.
Lord Nash, the Minister of Schools says that over the past five years, the population of students who speak English as a second language has risen by a fifth of its number in 2009—there are now over 1.1 million non-native English speaking students all over the country.
One of the concerns brought up by teachers in a forum held last week was that non-native English speakers might have a hard time adjusting to the educational system. It was at the same forum that Lord Nash revealed the GSCE statistics. He said that their study showed a steady rising in the scores of students taking English as an alternative language (EAL) over the years: in 2012, the scores still favored native English speakers by 15%. Last year, the scores leveled out very quickly, the EAL students leaving only a margin of 0.5% in the difference between their scores and the native English speakers’ scores. The Minister of Schools says that they feel one good way to try to help native English speakers is to introduce more foreign languages: he says that this might be a good way to stimulate language skills, which seem to play a key role in getting high scores on the EBacc—studies have also shown that native English-speaking bilinguals get higher scores than their monolingual counterparts.
In a survey which the Department of Education conducted last summer, they gathered that most students who are native English speakers don’t bother to study for the GSCEs—because they feel they have a good grasp of the language, they tend to be more lax about preparing for the exam period whereas students who have learned English as a second language put in the extra effort to study the languages as well as the other core subjects because of the present anxiety that should they miss out on something, they will fail to understand the GSCE questions and not gain their English Baccalaureate.
They said that the surprising thing about these statistics, which show the validity of the aforementioned survey is that when their academic standing was evaluated outside the GSCEs, native English speakers did much better than the EAL students. 60.9% of students who did well in math, science, language, history and the humanities over-all were native English speakers. Only 58.3% of the non-GSCE achievers were EAL students.
The spokesman for the Department of Education said that they feel good about these statistics because they implemented the English Baccalaureate exactly for this reason—to properly evaluate a student’s overall performance. He said this helps level the academic playing field for students who would otherwise be at a disadvantage. He further states that their statistics have shown growth in the enrollment of students from different ethnic backgrounds, a considerable number of whom are from working-class or lower-income backgrounds.
He further states that the focus of the government is now turned toward the aforementioned native English-speaking, working-class male population who didn’t do so well in the GSCEs. They’re looking for different ways to help them perform and to achieve a high success rate for the EBacc. The Department of Education is looking to do this by conducting several surveys within the year which aim to identify ways in which the system can be improved to help these boys do better in school. All-in-all, both the Department of Education and the Minister of Schools are pleased with this year’s GSCE statistics.
The Education Sector Works to “Uplift Working Class Students”
Peter Brandt, the head of policy at the Social Mobility and Child Poverty commission said that in order for working class students to succeed, they have to learn how to “lift their standards” and “act more middle class”. He clarifies his somewhat controversial statement in a blog post on the commission’s website where he says that most of the bright working class children don’t apply to top schools and universities because they are worried about not fitting in. He says that one of his greatest fears is that students from working class backgrounds hold themselves back: to succeed, he says, they must strengthen their spirits and learn how to eat, dress and conduct personal relationships in a way that is appropriate for situations of success. He says that it is only by learning to be casual and comfortable in situations like a good restaurant or a play at the theater that working class students will be able to lift their standards for living and become successful professionals.
Last year, Sir John Major, the former head of the Conservative Party said that he was shocked that the country is still run by people from the upper-middle class who have been educated in private school. He says that by now, with all the effort that has been put into improving state school education, more leaders should be coming from working class, state-educated backgrounds. Because of this, leaders are set to assume that something else (aside from the educational system) is keeping bright, working class students from succeeding.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary argues that the problem is still an educational system issue: he says that state schools should set the bar so high that their procedures and standards become indistinguishable from those of private institutions. He says that more than addressing issues of class and asking students to adapt to a certain way of living, they should be adjusting the system to provide a venue in which working class students can get more comfortable—because there is no other choice.
Opposing this Mr. Brandt says that the problem with the educational system is that it does not take the students’ emotional needs into account. He says that officials are placing too high a premium on the idea of the “education”, they completely ignore how working class students might feel about putting themselves in alien situations which make them feel like outsiders. Furthermore, he says that while grades are definitely important, those marks cannot be achieved especially for those from lower-income backgrounds if they don’t find a way to get comfortable with living outside the lower class standards of living. He goes onto say that whatever the educational system tries to do for these working class students as a means of “exposing them to middle class living” won’t work because it will feel contrived—much like government project housing, seeing a play under the funding of the government will still be something considered “lower class behavior”. He says that the only way for the students to inculcate middle class standards into their lives without feeling alien is to go out and do it themselves. He urges students from lower-income backgrounds to go out and see plays, eat at good restaurants and invest in quality clothing. What the education sector can do he says is to provide an orientation course where the students can openly ask questions about the environmental factors which make them feel ill at ease in middle-class settings—for example, the proper way to act in certain situation or the proper way to dress for a fine-dining restaurant. Students should be able to feel open about these things, he says—but they should also make an effort to try and get used to alien environments. While he says that he understands the Department of Education’s focus on the GSCE results is a step in the right direction, he fears they might be ignoring some of the other things which matter—things that cannot be quantified by an exam score.
Mr. Brandt is himself, a middle-class man who worked his way up in life, having completed his schooling first at Aylesbury Grammar School in New Port and then in Cambridge University. He says that he is by no means suggesting that this issue is a simple one or one which can be dealt with immediately: he is simply asking that it not be ignored.
Top State Secondary Schools Implement Lottery System
In a recent study conducted by the Department of Education, it was found that the best state secondary schools have raised their selectivity (and are continuing to raise their selectivity) for new admissions—meaning students aged 10 or 11, just entering secondary education. It has been found that this year’s National Offer Day (the day on which parents find out which school their children have been accepted to for the coming school year in September) is going to be the most stressful one for parents yet. The aforementioned study also revealed that most students end up going to their second, third or fourth choice for secondary school because the top schools are extremely selective, so much so that 10 to 12 students are vying for the spot.
For example, at the Tiffin School, Kingston upon Thames, more than 1,863 students were in the running for admissions but the school only offered 160 slots. Whereas the Harris City Academy Crystal Palace in south London had even more shocking numbers to show with 2,016 applicants competing for a mere 180 slots. These numbers have increased the competition across all socioeconomic backgrounds so much so that some parents have resorted to renting flats within city districts to up their chances of being accepted to schools which give top priority to residential district residents, changing their children’s religion as a means of gaining priority in Catholic grammar schools and lying about their socioeconomic standing on forms for top state schools which give priority to students from lower-income families.
In an effort to eliminate bias, a lot of the top schools have taken on a new lottery-style system where students are chosen “blindly” or based on academic performance alone, without consideration to the student’s socioeconomic background, place of residence and/or religion.
Janette Walls, senior editor of the The Good Schools Guide says that this new system aims to discourage both students and parents from fibbing on their application forms or worrying about the things that are superfluous and will encourage them to instead focus on doing well academically, which is what matters the most.
John Constable, head of the John Langley Grammar School said that the rushed “over-preparation” of students and parents for these screening procedures have been very problematic for both applying students and for the screening committees—test scores and applications have become a misnomer: lots of students getting good scores as a result of excessive tutoring may fair well but in truth, don’t have the capacity to maintain that performance without the extra help. He says they are looking for students who are truly in the top 30 percent of their classes, not just in terms of scores but also in terms of work ethic. He adds that they will be looking at the students’ long-term performance as opposed to just the entrance exam numbers. He says that the new lottery system will allow them to properly evaluate how students perform by eliminating extraneous variables (e.g. score spike due to short-term tutoring).
NASA Helps 4-Year-Old Boy From Yorkshire With His Homework
4-year-old Lucas Whiteley, from Yorkshire recently posted a video addressed to NASA, asking for help with his homework. The short video contained three questions that Lucas needed help with. Lucas’s father helped him film the video which they uploaded onto the NASA site.
Lucas and his father were over the moon when NASA engineer Ted Garbeff uploaded a 10-minute video response. The video included not just the answers to Lucas’s questions, but also a short tour of Ted’s Mountain View base in California. Mr. Garbeff is an expert in experimental fluid physics who studies the debris left over from space capsules. In the video, he explains in simple but effective terms how many stars there are, who the second and third astronauts sent into space were and whether or not any animals had been sent up there.
To explain the first question, Mr. Garbeff likens the stars to the number of grains of sand on the beach—far too many to count and definitely far more than we can account for from first-hand experience. He then went on to explain that the United States was the only country to land a man on the moon but that China and Russia had sent rovers there beforehand. Answering the boy’s third question, he explains that the first living thing on the moon was, in fact an animal—a Russian dog named Laika.
Lucas’s father James Whiteley, 37, said that he helped his son post up that video as a result of a rather disappointing childhood experience. When he was a young boy, he wrote to NASA and all he got in response was a brochure. With the advent of interactive media, he felt that his son might be able to get the informative response he hadn’t been able to attain in his youth if they filmed a video instead of writing to the organization.
Mr. Whiteley says that he is very grateful to Mr. Garbeff for helping his son out. He also adds that the video was excellently made because Mr. Garbeff really took his audience into account—he explained things in a way that was understandable but which didn’t water down any information. Furthermore, he says that he is pleased at how this would encourage kids to learn more about science and space travel; he says it’s good to keep children curious. He adds that it was extremely rewarding to see his son so happy about the video.
In response to this, Mr. Garbeff said that it was a pleasure making the video—he says that his job at NASA was a result of a lot of hard work and an intense interest in space so he is always happy to help anyone who shares the same love for the mystery that is outer space. He also agrees with Mr. Whiteley’s attitude toward children: it’s good to nourish the thirst for knowledge.
Lucas presented the video at an assembly in his primary school, Sunny Hill Primary in Wrenthrope, West Yorks.
It’s Good That Parents Speak Up
David Laws, the Minister of Schools praises sharp-elbowed parents for speaking up for themselves and for ensuring that their children get the best education. He says that while society often complains about “annoying parents” or tell these people to “just shut up”, these parents are actually doing the right thing. Mr. Laws stresses that all families should follow the example of these parents—he says it is important to be aware of what is happening within the education community and that he admires parents who are able to maintain that kind of diligence when it comes to their children’s education.
He further stresses that his admiration has grown over the past few months when they learned that a lot of these parents who were fighting for their children’s educations were from lower-income backgrounds. Mr. Laws said in a speech last week that it is his missing to encourage parents from lower-income households to tell the government how they can be helped. In line with this, he also addressed many of the more selective state schools to open up their admissions to 11-year-olds from low-income brackets who wish to begin studying at their institutions. Mr. Laws attended a meeting of the Commons Education Select Committee and made these comments in an attempt to address the underperformance of a lot of the pupils from lower-income families.
More specifically, it was shown that white boys and girls from this socioeconomic bracket achieved the least in school whereas those from different ethnic backgrounds (Hispanics, Asians, Africans) were doing significantly better even if all of them have the same privileges (free lunch, etc.).
When he talked to the parents of the children who were underachieving academically, they all complained about the same thing—having no money. They began to talk about how other parents used their socioeconomic advantages to give their children opportunities. Mr. Law says in response to these comments that it is not a bad thing to spend on your child’s education—he says that if they had the money, they would probably do the same thing.
The solution, the Minister of Schools says, is not to keep the upper-class margin from maximizing their benefits; it’s to extend similar opportunities to the disadvantaged. He asked the parents of these students to speak up and stay aware: he pleads with them to talk to their children and pay closer attention to what their needs might be. The big difference might have to do with how vigilant parents are. Parents from similar low-income families who were of different ethnic descent all seemed to be more active in the parental committees and knew what was going on in their children’s school lives, which may account for the difference in the academic performance of their children.
One of the things which Mr. Laws is doing with the Department of Education is trying to make admissions fairer. They’ve also worked toward mixing classes so that each class is diverse and everyone has a fair chance of doing well.
Nick Clegg Says “You Can Still Afford To Go To University”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, is perhaps most known for being unable to fulfill his party’s (Liberal Democratic) promise to scrap tuition fees. He publicly apologized for this on many occasions (a couple of which ended up as spoofs on YouTube)—the U-turn on the policy was more a funding problem than anything. To make up for this, Mr. Clegg has taken it upon himself to make sure that students never have to pay upfront for any of their educational fees. Furthermore, he has taken it upon himself to make sure that the students know this: in a question and answer program held at the Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School in East London, he told students not to let the myth that tuition fees are too high for them to afford deter them from gaining higher education.
“You can still afford to go to University,” he stresses. He goes onto say that as deputy prime minister he has made sure that the University educational policies benefit the students. In addition to not having to pay for any fees up front, students are only obliged to pay their student loans once they are employed and are able to attain a salary of at least 21,000 pounds. He stresses that should the student be unable to attain that salary after a certain period of time, the loan is eventually written off. They’ve also increased the number of grants available to students from lower income households.
An incentive has also been given by the government to universities that are able to attain a high freshman admission rate and are able to use government funding. Mr. Clegg says that the school administrators were initially shocked when they implemented this—he says it’s an indication of what people expect from the government and from the education officials, which didn’t seem like much. Mr. Clegg says that it’s time to turn that around.
True enough; statistics for tertiary education have been looking up since Mr. Clegg has been in office. In the few months of 2014, 21% of 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds have applied to University. This is a huge number as compared to the 18% for all of 2011 and 11% for the entire calendar year of 2004.
Finally, Mr. Clegg addresses the parents—he says that they can still have that graduation photo framed on their mantles: the first step is to be open-minded and positive about the situation. He tells them to go and consider their options, with the numerous grants and loans now available to the general public. He also stresses that it’s important not to discourage their children from pursuing an undergraduate degree by telling them right off the bat that they can’t afford it: it isn’t true. The deputy prime minister stresses that there are now numerous ways of getting a college degree—now, more than ever there are myriads of options for families from every income bracket. He begs that this generation remain vigilant in the pursuit of knowledge.
Schools Should Shift to the IB System, Leading Scientist Says
Professors are now bringing to light new findings in neuropsychology that say perhaps students shouldn’t be made to make such big decisions so early on in life. Throughout the nation, students are made to choose their GSCEs in Year 9 (at the age of 13 or 14)—this determines their career track for most of their adult lives because it limits what subjects they take and what major they work toward in University (and ultimately, what they end up doing afterward).
Professor Sarah Jayne Blakemore of the neuroscience department at University College London says that recent studies have shown that the part of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex) which is responsible for decision making, empathy and impulse-control hasn’t yet developed completely at the age of 13 or 14. Furthermore, she says that it is crucial to the children’s world survival skills that they learn a wide variety of subjects at this age, while the brain is still malleable. She says that between the age of 13 to 18, the brain goes through different changes in its structure before it matures in accordance with the individual’s environment and preferences.
At the Science Community Representing Education (SCORE) conference, Professor Blakemore gave a talk in which she was able to expound on what she feels would be a more effective alternative to the present public education system. She says that the present educational system puts too big a burden of responsibility on teenagers—she says that while teenagers may look adult or act adult, on a neurological level their brains are still closer to that of a six-year-old than they are to that of an 18 or 20-year-old.
She suggests that the education officials study the International Baccalaureate (IB) system which is being employed elsewhere in Europe as well as in some private schools within the nation. In the IB system, the curriculum consists of a diverse range of sciences, math and liberal arts subjects until the students turn 18. However, they are still able to determine their point of focus by selecting certain subjects to take advanced classes in. This allows the students to study what they’re interested in without necessarily making a set decision about their future or closing off any options which they might end up regretting in the future.
By the age of 17 or 18, Professor Blakemore says that the brain has reached a point of development that is enough to make responsible decisions which the students can stand by. The brain also undergoes marginal changes in structure afterwards so a decision you make at 17 or 18 will most probably still be something you can stand by later on in life. She also says that it is important for students who want to eventually become arts majors to take up science subjects until they turn 18, if only because of the many benefits the scientific method has when it comes to weighing one’s options. She believes that a shift to the IB system is for the best.
Number of All-Through Schools At An All Time High
There has been an increase of all-through schools (schools which teach bother primary and secondary school) all throughout the nation. Education officials predict that all-through schools will become the trend in the coming years. This conclusion is based on statistic provided by a survey of parents, who say that they prefer that their children be at one institution throughout their earlier education.
The new all-through system means that students will be at the same establishment from primary school age, usually 4 or 5 (and in the case of some academies which provide nursery school, 2 or 3) up until they leave secondary education at 18. This has been shown to eliminate the dip in academic performance that usually occurs during the transition from primary to secondary schooling as a result of students adapting to their new environments.
Supporters of the new system also stress that this will also allow students to get specialized education because the teachers are able to monitor them through the years. They will be able to help all students develop to the best of their abilities.
The new system is based on high-end private schools which have a similar structure—they usually have corresponding prep schools nearby. Natalie Evans, director of the New School Network , a charity aimed at educational reforms says that more than 25 percent of their project proposals this year were for new free schools built on the all-through system.
She says that setting up new schools is one of the best things that educational reforms have brought up through the years—it gives you the option not just to think about the existing system and how to employ it but how a system in general should work and how you can tweak it to make it better. The New School Network aims to set up a whole new network of schools in the coming years.
89 mainstream all-through schools have been built within the past academic year—15 of which were built by The New School Network. Evans says that the point of the all-through system isn’t just to help students perform better, it’s also to help them maintain the self-discipline and diligence which is usually founded in primary school but is lost in the transition to secondary school both because of the change in environment and the change in the school systems when the students move.
23 more all-through schools are set to open by September next year. Heyford Park Free School in Oxfordshire opened last year with two classes of reception pupils. In the next few years, they will be opening up enough classes for 840 pupils in primary and secondary education as well as a nursery which will be open for 26 students, per class. Sarah Mc Cready, a member of the school’s governing trust says that the all-through system has allowed them to mix ages and levels per class, in accordance with the students’ needs and that it’s because of this that Heyford’s student standing is excellent.
Cambridge University Takes A Big Step Forward
In an attempt to diversify their faculty and be more inclusive, Cambridge University has posted a call for female professors. They say that this is because a study showed that of the population of educators throughout the US and the UK, only 22% were women. This means that not only is education limited with regard to the educators’ points of view, it is also limited in the variation of skill: there are some skills that are more predominant in women and which they would like to have both for the teaching aspect and the research aspect, the University says—such as multi-tasking, event planning and other tasks which the University feels will contribute to both the faculty part and the professional part of the job.
The academics also say that Cambridge’s move will be empowering for women: while it is significantly less than a few decades ago, a certain stigma still seems to pervade the academe (especially in further education) when it comes to women professors being given the same privileges as male teachers of the same esteem. Cambridge hopes to bypass this and make it easier for women in the academe to advance. They say that their present system (which is admittedly quite antiquated) definitely favors male professors as the faculty was predominantly male when it was put into place. They mean to change this in the next few years, so that it is gender-neutral.
A University-wide survey conducted for the period January 2013-2014 showed that while there is a significant number of women who work at the university, only a negligible number were professors. Most women working at the University are assistants, secretaries or academic work staff. 78% of the professors at Cambridge are male. Along with the call for female professors, Cambridge is also working on rules and regulations that will better fit a more gender-diverse faculty. They would also like to do away with certain parameters which benefitted only male professors and have, in the opinion of most faculty members, kept women professors from teaching at the establishment previously. They say they are looking forward to announcing these new rules and to introducing their new faculty members.
Furthermore, Cambridge stresses that they are concerned with obtaining success that goes beyond the traditional notions of what it means to achieve. While they say that of course money, grants and awards are important, they would also like to know that they are measuring the things core to an educational institution—they would like to know that their students are learning and that they are doing a good job and teaching. To further this goal, they are making changes in their system by putting out solid markers for students’ skills. They will be beginning this after their women empowerment project has been finalized and implemented.
Cambridge University stresses the need for academic institutions to take steps toward an effective educational system which will help enhance the human experience. They say is the best thing schools can give their students.
Raising the Bar for Basic Education
Helen Casey, the director of the NRDC (an organization which helps in raising adult literacy and numeracy) said that the biggest problems they’re facing isn’t with the students but with the teachers—she says that teachers need training. It is a huge misconception, Casey says that if you can do something, you can teach it. She says that college graduates without units in teaching are often allowed to teach depending on what their university major was. She says this completely ignores teaching as a method and that teachers really need to undergo training if they’re going to do anything about the standard of western education.
Her plea has reached the ears of several officials in the government as well as the educational sector. However, not all opinions were in agreement with her—a lot of officials have said that training teachers when they have already completed tertiary education seems needless and like a waste of money. Casey says that despite the conflict in the situation, she is glad that people are at least talking about the issue.
The governments of Britain and Northern Ireland have already sent out a decree that they will be awarding university graduates who decide to teach in further education with 10,000 pounds. They will also be giving universities 20,000 pounds if they hire specialized teachers and 30,000 pounds if they are able to share their resources with neighboring schools. When asked to comment on this development, Casey says that while it is a very good policy to implement, the problem is that it only pertains to further education.
She further stresses that while that is important as well, it is more important to educate people who aren’t good at what they’re doing yet. She says a bigger part of the problem is that now the competent college graduates will be teaching further education as opposed to basic education: she mentions that a study conducted in the USA, Britain and Northern Ireland have shown that a huge number of teachers hired for foundational education didn’t even graduate from math or English courses—a number of elementary schools in the UK have been hiring graduates of vocational math courses to teach fundamental math principles.
She states that what needs to be done is that the budget for basic education needs to be ring-fenced—she says that while a vocational course might have provided someone a good basic understanding of math or English, it is one thing to know how to do something and quite another to know how to teach it. She is requesting that the government set aside funding for adult math and English education: she says that training basic education teachers will definitely improve the state of education. Harvey Young, the director of NCC Skills (which provides math and English qualifications) agrees with her—they hire only full-time specialized math and English tutors. Young says that the only students can be given quality education is to make sure that teachers have quality education to give.
Scientists Petition for Practical Science Grade to Remain Core
Sir Mark Walport, who was assigned to the post of Chief Science Advisor last year warns (the Prime Minister) David Cameron about the dangers of the education proposal which suggests removing practical lab classes from the core education—under the proposal, the classes will still be taught but the grades from experiments will no longer be added to the students’ final grade, nor will it affect their academic standing. Ofqual, the educational qualifications body wrote the proposal in response to education secretary Michael Gove’s complaints that the practical science grades were inflating students’ marks. He said that a lot of students who were flunking theoretical science were being rescued by their high practical marks.
In a letter addressed to Ofqual (copies of which were sent to the Prime Minister, Michael Gove, business secretary Vince Cable and cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood), Walport stresses the need for the practical sciences to remain vital to education. He said that putting emphasis purely on the theoretical aspect of science downgrades the skills of this generation’s scientists. He fears for their standing once they get into higher level education and ultimately, of the quality of their practices later on: whether these students become Doctors, biologists, physicists or chemists. Walport wrote the letter not just as the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, but also as co-chairman of the Council for Science and Technology (CST) on which most of the country’s most eminent scientists sit.
He further stresses that while theory is important, the nature of the scientific method is practical. He says it is impossible for the quality of studies in the sciences to improve if the educational system produces students who are under-qualified and who don’t know what to do in the lab. He said in his letter that he understands the concerns of the Department of Education about grade inflation but that this is more a matter of the malpractice of teachers when it comes to grading than it is of the importance of the practical sciences in education.
Sir John Tooke, who also sits on the CST, agrees with Walport: he adds that not only does the proposed change downgrade the students’ practical skills, it also damages their understanding of theory—he argues that theory and practice always go together. They are two sides of the same coin and without the one, the other will cease to function. He says that students learn concepts in their theory lectures but only fully understand them upon seeing how they take place in the lab. He urges the Department of Education to instead alter the way that these lab classes are treated. He stresses that lab experiment classes should feel less like a cooking show where students are handed recipes and more like an opportunity to challenge students to explore.
In response to the letter, Ofqual says that it was not their intention to downgrade the importance of skills that future scientists need—they will take the CST’s notes into account when revising the proposal.
Review Body Says That Teachers’ Holidays Are To Remain
Education Secretary Michael Grove’s proposal to lift the clause limiting how many hours teachers can work and stating that they are required to be given time for the holidays has been rejected by the School Teachers Review Body (STRB). While Grove believed that this would help make the educational system more professional and efficient, the STRB said that this clause was unreasonable and would cause the abuse of teachers. Grove tried to argue that a system without restrictions could give students the option of learning more—that they could stay in school and study more if they wanted to. He said that this would also encourage more extra-curricular activities because there would always be someone around to supervise the students.
The STRB met this proposal with a resounding no. They told Mr. Grove that teachers also need time to rest—they said that teachers don’t earn a lot and most schools don’t have a very big budget to compensate teachers for the hours which they are currently doing. They ruled that Mr. Grove’s suggestion would be impractical as well as too much to ask from overworked teachers. They also said that in a survey they conducted last year, most teachers take their time off during holidays to organize their lesson plans and prepare their minds for the next days. Taking this away from them would be abuse, the STRB said.
Christina Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers said that this is a huge triumph for teachers. She says that ideas like Grove’s open up the community of teachers for greater abuse. She commends the STRB for recognizing teachers’ rights. Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said that proposals like Grove’s are what truly undermine professionalism—she says that his proposal failed on all counts of trying to persuade the board that he was raising the standard of teaching because it was unreasonable. She also said that she is very happy that the STRB was taking into account the hard work and long hours that teachers put in, both during and after school hours.
Although, the STRB recognizes that Grove’s proposal did have some valid points as well—they granted him permission to remove from teachers’ contracts a list of 21 things that teachers aren’t allowed to do: these include photocopying, putting up displays and exam invigilating. This decision however angered UNISON which is the body responsible for classroom assistants: they said that this decision will result in the loss of jobs for support staff.
John Richards, UNISON’s national secretary said that teachers should be given the same importance but they haven’t—teachers are expected to chase kids, collect money and do bulk photocopying. He insists that this is the true problem with education and the government: they don’t value teachers—you would never expect a doctor to do the diagnosis, the surgery and then come out of the operating room to write the prescriptions, collect money and file and photocopy the discharge instructions.
14 Cities Work Together to Expand Arts Education
In an effort to better the quality of arts education, 14 cities and their respective school districts have joined a program linking art groups to different schools. This helps improve the quality of art education without straining their already tight budgets. This program was spearheaded by the Kennedy Center in Sacramento and is called the “Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child” program.
Last Wednesday, art educators and school leaders across 14 cities and numerous school districts from Sacramento to Baltimore met up to compare notes on what’s been making their art program so successful. The effort began in Sacrament in 2009 and has expanded to a reach of 1 million students this year.
Erika Kraft of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission says that when they started the effort 5 years ago, they had almost no teachers left. It was in the midst of the Great Recession and only 17 percent of students were being exposed to any art education at that point. Now 35,000 students gather together every year to watch a live arts performance and the curriculum is being reworked to incorporate more art-integrated subjects.
Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser said that they could to expand from 14 to 50 or even 75 cities within the next decade, with the help of the $1 million endowment they were awarded by the Newman’s Own Foundation. Kaiser says that the real secret to the program’s rapid growth is that it makes sense—it was well-formulated and that the only way to teach art is really to be immersed in the presence of artists. He says that they will soon be presenting the numbers that they’ve gathered over the years in order to spread awareness as how to go about teaching art in the world of budget-cuts.
Candy Schneider, the head of the project in Las Vegas (a participating city since 2010) says that the expansion in their city has been great—both because of the eagerness of the students and the monetary support they’ve gotten for the effort. They were recently given support by the Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Las Vegas Ballet, both in private and federal grants. They also received a nearly $900,000 grant from the Department of Education earlier in the year to ensure the expansion of arts education in the coming years.
The teachers involved in the effort go to the Kennedy Center in Washington every summer for training.
The combined effort has eliminated almost all competing art programs for federal funding. Schneider says that she is very proud of this—and that it will definitely mean good things even for the programs which didn’t get grants because their effort means the definite expansion of arts education throughout the country. She says that she is grateful that all the support the program has gotten has been sincere. While they appreciate the money, she stresses that it has never been and never will be about the money: once you get there, you know it’s about the children.
6 States & the District of Columbia to Be Awarded For Their Efforts to Develop Schools
US Department of Education Secretary Anne Duncan announced that six states and the district of Columbia will receive a hefty award for their efforts to help turn the worst schools in their districts around—$38 million will be given to the aforementioned bodies to continue their efforts to develop the educational areas in their jurisdiction.
The award-giving body is their new grant-giving program called the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program which will be taking charge of efforts to rehabilitate and improve educational areas which aren’t doing very well. This effort began last year and is now awarding the states (and the district of Columbia) which were able to increase their performance and make the most use of the funding which was initially provided to them by the SIG.
The following are those receiving these new awards: Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, Virginia and West Virginia.
Duncan says that when the educational system suffers, the children suffer, the parents suffer—and subsequently, the entire American population suffers as a result of the lack of education (which eventually becomes the lack of employment). She says that the SIG is the government’s answer to the need for improvement in education and the lack of funding in areas that are often ignored by the government’s larger, more mainstream programs: this is the biggest opportunity that the Department of Education has had to better the lives of Americans everywhere. She further presses that SIG will be giving out grant money based on need as well as the dedication of the states’ educators to improving their educational system.
The School Improvement Grants will be given to the State Education Agencies (SEAs) which will then distribute the grants to school districts which demonstrate the most dire need for the funds as well as the most commitment to improving their educational systems. They will take into account whether the educators have a solid plan for their district’s improvement and if they truly deserve the sub-grant; this will be done during a screening period wherein the applying schools will be reviewed. For schools that are re-applying for the sub-grants, improvement of their students’ achievements will be taken into account.
The SIG program is one of the Obama administration’s most effective programs to date. They have invested more than $2 million so far, in more than 1,500 of the most derelict schools all over the country. Early findings are showing a significant increase in the performance of students from the SIG-funded districts—raised grades, more student interest in co-curricular activities. They also note that the schools which have been given the chance of improvement are improving in their infrastructure as well; the Department of Education is pleased so far in how the grants they’ve given out are being used. They encourage more states to apply for these grants in the years to come; Duncan believes the educational system is on its way to optimum development. Most of the SIG schools are located in small towns and rural communities.
Philadelphia Education Officials Consider Using Universal Enrollment System
Philadelphia (Philly) has one of the most diverse educational communities in the United States—while this has its own number of advantages, it also means that there are multiple forms, deadlines and fees that parents and students alike have to process before they can begin the enrollment process. Some of the bewildering choices which Philly parents and students have to ponder on include neighborhood schools, charter schools, private schools, Catholic schools, science-specialized schools and design-specialized schools.
While the easiest option would be to enroll in neighborhood schools, surveys show that most students in Philadelphia opt to go to specialized-enrollment schools because of the non-par education that a lot of the neighborhood schools offer.
Philly also has one of the biggest populations of enrolled students. This leads to a lot of red tape during the enrollment period and subsequently, to a significant number of students not getting into the school that they would like. Lori Shorr, the city’s chief education officer says that this system only caters to parents who have the time, connections and resources to spend on the tedious processes. She also notes that a lot of the specialized applications require parents to appear in person—a huge inconvenience to low-income families, especially those without cars. To address this, they are considering adapting the new and quite popular Universal Enrollment (UE) system.
The UE system has recently been adopted city-wide in Washington, Newark, Denver and New Orleans. This new system is almost completely online and eliminates the need for multiple forms and decreases the requirement for manpower. The UE system receives applications, evaluates them and then picks a match-school for the student in question based on previous grades, residential districts and the students’ top 3 choices.
Certain officials who are opposed to Philadelphia moving to the UE system argue that while it reduces cost, it also reduces choice—it limits their options. Christine Carlson, a parent whose daughter is going to enroll in sixth grade this coming August says that the system sounds terrific but the thought of a computer deciding where her daughter should go makes her nervous.
Denver officials urge Philadelphia to make the change: it’s made the enrollment process a breeze. Furthermore, they reject any claims of the system limiting choice as there is the option of trying for a second match. She also adds that 92% of the Denver student population got into one of their top three school picks.
David Hardy, founder of the Boys’ Latin charter school in Philadelphia says that the problem isn’t just the system—it’s also the number of schools to which the students want to apply. He says that what the officials should really work on is expanding the number of good schools within the city—and everything will follow.
Karen Lynch, Philadelphia’s district director of enrollment says that the discussion has just begun: while they are most definitely interested in this option, they are still in listening and learning mode and won’t be making any final decisions soon.
Education Secretary Wants Tests for 4-year-olds
Education secretary Michael Gove says that the best way to test students’ progress is to test them first when they come into pre-school—at 4 or 5 years old and again when they are 11 years old and about to exit primary school. He suggests that this be done by all public schools throughout the nation. He said that this would also allow the government to see how schools were doing with disadvantaged children. He insists that two points of reference are needed to track change; the earlier the better.
However, the National Union of Teachers fears that this may be too much, too soon for the children. They emphasize that this may put unnecessary stress on the children which may cause a discrepancy in the results of their tests—or even worse, affect the kids’ progress.
Mr. Grove refutes these possibilities, saying that the Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS) tests were already being used in private schools and independent institutions throughout the nation. He thinks that this, in fact, may be one of the key factors in establishing quality education. He also addresses the concerns on stress, saying that the test is made for children and that anyone in primary school can do simple tasks and perform accordingly without necessarily yet understanding the pressures of a test, as one would when one is older.
He goes on to say that doing this will also benefit the teachers in that they can, very early on, adjust their standards and methods of teaching accordingly. He says that this method will provide them with the information they need to formulate not just their curriculum, but also the calendar over which that curriculum is spread. He says that this proposed testing may be the closest to advanced social justice that the public school system has come in the past decade—it ensures that everyone’s needs are met. He also says that he’s worked with top teachers and heads of schools for the past few years and so far, they’ve done well and his proposal has received a wide welcome.
Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers pleads with Secretary Grove—there are other methods of providing specialized, holistic education such as talking to the child’s parents or observing their behavior in school. She goes on to ask for him to trust the teachers as they’ve been doing this for years. She also makes an example of Finland, which has one of the highest literacy rates in the world: their children aren’t tested until they’re 7 years old.
Shadow education secretary Tristam Hunt said that Labour would look very closely at these proposals before making a decision. He says that he is leaning towards Grove’s suggestion, if only because there are too many children entering primary school when they aren’t ready. Labour has yet to make a final decision—although they assure both parties concerned that whatever will be done will be done in the interest of the children.
Chicago Public Schools Change Admission Criteria
Every year, getting into a good selective-enrollment high school is a challenge for both parents and their children who are enrolled in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The students’ enrollment is usually determined by their previous grades as the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). In order to get into a high school that will look good on their college applications, the students (and parents) usually prepare for this test—taken either in seventh or eight grade—up to three years prior. However, recently CPS decided to change the admission criteria for students applying to the selective-enrollment programs.
Instead of the ISAT, CPS will now be using Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP). This has brought up a lot of discussion and debate among the students enrolled in CPS middle schools as well as for their parents who’ve enrolled them in prep classes for the ISAT. Demetra Soter, a concerned parent has had her daughter enrolled in an ISAT prep class for the past year and a half—that’s $360 down the drain, she says in protest of the NWEA MAP shift. Rebecca Labowitz, a parent and blogger who maintains the website CPS Obsessed (which broadcasts both news and opinions re: CPS happenings) wrote an article last week about how the real troubling thing about the shift to the NWEA MAP isn’t the shift but the fact that it was done on such short notice, only 3 months before the test is to be taken. Furthermore, the NWEA MAP is an adaptive test—it’s done on a computer and gets progressively harder as the student gets more correct answers. It also leaves out the option of correcting past answers—something which the ISAT permitted students to do.
At a parent-teacher meeting at the Hawthorne Scholastic Academy, parents were able to talk with the school’s principal to raise their concerns. Cherya Jenkins, who has twin girls enrolled at the school says that what upsets her the most is that the NWEA MAP puts their kids at odds with private school students, who also use the test to get into selective-enrollment schools but who’ve been taking and preparing for that test for the past years.
To address issues about fairness, the CPS promises to be considerate about screening scores and perfecting the present test system. They also add that they were forced into the sudden shift by a change in the decree Department of Education about the ISAT no longer being eligible for nation-wide ranking. They promise that a sudden shift will not happen again—at least not in the next few years.
Prep class institutes are also doing their best to help their students out by opening up classes for the NWEA MAP. Certain prep institutes have allowed shifting from ISAT classes into NWEA MAP classes—their biggest concern is the the time limit of less than 3 months to cover the extensive curriculum. They are, however, determined that they will succeed in providing students with the knowledge they need.
School Throws Dance Party for Straight A Students
The Eastern Middle School, in Silver Springs, Maryland recently garnered a lot of public attention when it decided to throw a party for its Straight A students—complete with free pizza, dancing and a hired DJ. The party started at the beginning of the last period, meaning the Straight A students were able to have one day without their last period.
Students who either garnered Straight Bs or Cs as well as students who had Bs and Cs mixed in with their A-grades were invited to the party as well, but were allowed access to the shindig only after class when free pizza was no longer being served.
The middle school says that this is their way of motivating the students: they say it’s crucial to reward those who deserve recognition. However, students with failing grades or marks lower than a C were excluded from the party entirely—306 of the school’s 865 students didn’t attend the academic dance bonanza which the school held. Its official event name was “The Academic Achievement Celebration”.
There were some critics re: this celebration. Parents of some of the students excluded from the party complained that the school holding such an exclusive party made their kids feel left out. Barbara Marinak, an associate professor who studies motivation and learning cautions the school’s teachers and administration that throwing events like this could possibly create a caste system that encourages bullying.
The school administration countered this by arguing the numbers: most of the student population was able to attend. Furthermore, they say that this is not the last party they will be throwing for their achievers and that every grading period is a chance to start anew and achieve academic excellence. The school’s PTSA president, Chris Rutledge said that the party was fun for the students and that the process of education is always two-fold—you have to get the kids to work hard and reward those that do. He adds that he feels the party added a fun thing to strive for the students who may not have done as well during the last grading period.
The school’s principal, Casey Crouse adds that the party fulfilled its main objective which was to reward their hardworking pupils—not to exclude those who didn’t perform so well, but to give them something to strive harder for.
Crouse also stresses that this kind of reward is not exclusive to Straight A students. She puts emphasis on the fact that at The Eastern Middle School they reward all academic achievements—the scale of the reward is always in accordance with the achievement’s merit. In the case of Straight A students, they definitely think they deserved one day to let loose. Last week, they gave students with an improved academic standing a snack and certificates during break time at the canteen. Crouse says that the only way to really motivate kids is to reward them with something they enjoy—not just medals or certificates but celebrations and moments to remember.
Academic News: French Dual-Language Program Booming in New York Schools
Despite the fact that there is a significantly small population of French immigrants in New York City, the French Dual-Language Program has been booming. The program is a tie-up between the US and French governments which seeks to teach students the French language as a means of preparing them for doing global business. While most immigrants in New York are Latino or Chinese, the demand for these bilingual programs is oddly low—they attribute this to the possible redundancy of taking up a bilingual program in a language already spoken at home.
Officials say that a lot of collaborations between France and the United States are to happen in the next few years.
The number of families that are supportive of the said program overwhelmed even Antonin Baudry, the French embassy’s cultural counselor. The program was originally started in only 4 schools in Brooklyn—now, they’ve expanded into different parts of Manhattan as well and are continuing to grow. By next year, they hope to raise $2.8 billion to be able to introduce the program to more schools. As of now, 200 families have signed up in advance for the programs that are coming to their neighborhoods. Several families have even relocated, moving into neighborhoods where the program is being offered so that their children can take part in the program.
They cite a number of reasons for the success of the French Dual-Language Program, thus far—they say this benefits not only those wanting to learn French but also the French children whose parents want them to learn English. The program caters to the desire of multinational families to feel at ease in the global world. They also stress the fact that a lot of business owners in New York are French and so the desire to learn the language may be correlated with the viewed affluence of French immigrants in the city. They also add that studies have show that bilingualism increases cognitive ability and has been correlated with neurological health—studies are readily available and they don’t see why students wouldn’t want to learn a second language.
However, Fabrice Jaumont, the head of the educational attaché of the French Embassy hopes that parents will back their enthusiasm up with cash. He presses the need for monetary support if they’re to expand and maintain the program—he also says that if the program benefits the students (and thus, the parents) as well as it benefits France’s tie-up with the United States, then they should have no reason not to support the program financially, in whatever way they can.
The program began in 2007 and has now expanded into most grade levels, including kindergarten class. Robin Sundick, principal of P.S. 84 says that they got hundreds of applications last year from parents begging that their children be let into the 18-seat bilingual class.
Other bilingual classes hosted by public schools in New York include Russian, Spanish, Korean, and Chinese. However, none of these have become as popular as the French program.
F.C.C. to Spend More On High-Speed Internet
In an attempt to fulfill President Barrack Obama’s promise to make high-speed broadband internet accessible to over 20 million American students, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set its budget to spend $2.4 million, which will be spent providing advanced telecommunication and information technology to public schools and libraries this 2014. This program was set in place by the Obama administration to encourage learning via technology—a trend that shows not just effective learning but that may also be cheaper for both citizens and the government in the long run.
One of the newest developments in this program is that the funds for this will be taken from payments made by telecom users. The percentage given by the telecommunication companies are predicted to increase to a billion yearly, here on in. This is called the E-Rate program, which the President discussed in his last State of the Union Address. The government will not be requiring any additional fees or taxes from citizens to fund this project. In addition to this, the E-Rate program is part of and also supports the Universal Service Fund, which helps provide phone and internet services to people in low-income, rural areas by collecting a portion of users’ phone bill payments from telecom companies.
Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the commission, is going to announce more details about this project on Wednesday, the 5th of February during an event for Digital Learning Day—an event to promote digital literacy and education.
A portion of the funds dedicated to the E-rate budget will also be taken from overruns from the previous year. This year, the government will also begin eliminating budgets and services allocated for now-irrelevant communication technologies such as paging and dial-up Internet. The funds from these dissolved budgets will be consolidated for use of the E-rate project. In addition to providing high-speed internet, the commission will also work on the installation of laptop and tablet counters to allow students and citizens who may not have these devices for their personal use, to make use of the forthcoming broadband.
In a survey done in 2010, it was found that most schools have internet speeds that amount to only 3 megabits per second—to slow to stream even the lowest (144 dpi) resolution videos online. Most e-learning tools are videos. Another survey conducted last year (2013) by the American Library Association showed that most patrons of libraries (both inside and outside of schools) were dissatisfied with the institution’s internet speed and reliability. In general, public library access throughout the United States has been reported to be faulty and fluctuating—consoles available within these institutions (desktop computers, mostly) have also been reported to be slow and ill-equipped to handle the rigors of e-learning. It is the FCC’s goal to have internet that runs at over 100 megabits per second installed in schools all over America by 2015. They would like to increase this to a speed of 1 gigbit per second by the end of the decade (2020).
M.I.T. Graduate Turns YouTube Tutoring Channel Into An Online Academy
Salaman Kahn, a hedge-fund analyst with a master’s degree in computer science from M.I.T. started one of the breakthrough mediums of free online education: Khan Academy, a free online tutoring house which offers courses in math and the sciences—it all began with his 12-year-old cousin.
In a 2004 visit to Kahn and his wife’s home, his cousin Nadia told him that she was having trouble in math, so much so that she was getting moved into one a slower track math class for underachieving students. Kahn offered her his help and thus began their tutor sessions which happened via telephone at first.
Although he has no background in teaching math, Kahn felt compelled to help Nadia because he’s always had a passion for math. He says that math skills opened doors for him—that’s how he’d gotten into M.I.T.
As the tutoring sessions progressed, Nadia’s skills began to improve and eventually, there was no longer a need for her to move into a slow-track class. Kahn says that what he did was simple: he helped Nadia achieve what she thought she couldn’t. Little did he know, word about Kahn’s free tutoring would get around. Soon he was teaching 15 cousins: this was when he decided to make the transition from telephone tutoring to online tutorials.
He needed a platform which would allow him to leave assignments, handouts and things to do for his cousins and at first they used Yahoo Doodle, an app that previously existed on Yahoo Messenger. It was only after two years when a friend suggested YouTube that he reluctantly opened a channel. He explains his initial reluctance—“YouTube is for cats playing piano.”
Within months of starting the channel, Khan’s videos got over tens of thousands of views. The style of Khan’s videos are digitally animated and are voiced-over. He says the trick isn’t to dumb down the math or downplay the difficulty; the way to get kids to learn is to make the math experience fun.
When asked about what makes the Kahn Academy different from other open universities or online learning websites, he says that the big difference lies in that those sites follow traditional education: there is a test—some pass, some don’t. He explains that he doesn’t want to be in the business of segregating who can and can’t get into what college or profession—he wants to help people based on their abilities and needs.
He states that one of the educational system’s faults is their obsession with moving students along even if they aren’t ready; in the Kahn Academy you don’t move on to the next lesson until you’ve mastered the present one. A believer in personalizing education for the student, Kahn says the important thing is that students are able to determine their own pace. They do this by an initial test which tailor-fits the course to their needs.
He uses his cousin Nadia as an example of the effectiveness of this method of teaching—she’s now a pre-med and writing major at Sarah Lawrence.
Alert: Education Funding Agency in Trouble
The Education Funding Agency (EFA), the body responsible for managing the funding of free schools and public academic institutions for the Department of Education may be in trouble. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the EFA is in over its head in management projects—as well as costs.
They’ve had a 50% increase in workload and a need for a 15% decrease in costs. The NAO says that there is a need for a re-work in strategy: instead of making schools dependent on the EFA, they should instead be taught how to manage their finances on their own. More than managing monetary matters for schools, the EFA’s job has to soon become simply to teach schools how to do it themselves. Otherwise, the NAO warns, the agency’s reputation and finances will suffer because they will be shouldering too many responsibilities than their budget and competencies can handle.
Already, the agency faces two scandalous encounters with free schools that have complained about the mismanagement of the officials in charge of the project. In addition to this, they have also been accused of faulty accounting and mishandling of funds.
The NAO adds that the Department of Education is mostly to blame for this mishap—they were not able to sufficiently specify the EFA’s role in budget management. Thus, the agency has become overburdened with unreachable goals. Furthermore, the Department of Education has failed to equip the EFA for their increased workload.
On the upside, the NAO report acknowledged that the EFA did fairly well in their first year (hence, the additional work assigned to them) and that it was a good idea to establish the agency. They also commended the EFA for responding vigilantly to the growth in number of free academies.
In response to the NAO report, the Department of Education claims that new systems have been put in place at the EFA—precisely to avoid the mishaps which have taken place in the past and to cope with the sudden demand. Furthermore, they claim that the EFA was able to decrease unnecessary schooling costs by 35%.
However the NAO accounts that of the EFA’s 7,900 clients (equivalent to 10 million students) to whom the EFA was able to distribute more than 51 billion pounds, only 36% rated their service as excellent.
They conclude the report by maintaining that the agency has done a good job thus far and is doing well at maintaining daily operations. However, there is still a lot to be done if they are to maintain operations effectively and efficiently, long term.
Among the needs they need to address are the filling of key posts (which they have had trouble with because of the aforementioned budget constraints) and increasing competence in technical fields (IT and construction, in particular).
They also failed to meet their own proposed time table for conducting public school surveys for 2013 due to faulty management. The NAO stresses that the EFA needs to do better than this if it is to survive.
Small Study Groups Help Struggling Students
Federal tests have shown that half the male African-American population hasn’t mastered basic math skills by the 8th grade. This suggested not only a severe lack on the part of the educators but dissonance in the educational system itself.
In response to this need, a study was conducted by Jens Ludwig, the co-director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Lab where she and her colleagues took it upon themselves to tutor a group of 9th and 10th grade students who exhibited the following: poor math skills, streaks of absences and disciplinary problems. The study took place within an eight-month period and they tackled a curriculum which the average American high school programs typically take up within the span of three years. They had 106 participants (all chosen randomly), all male and all from the W.R. High School in one of Chicago’s impoverished neighborhoods which is known for violent gang behavior.
They tutored the students after school for an hour a day, every day. After the trial period, the results revealed statistics unlike any that the team had seen before—most of the students showed indicators of academic improvement and a lot of them even met the standards set to be eligible for graduation in the near future.
Professor Ludwig says that the key to the success of their experiment was specialized education: they assigned one tutor for every two students. The big problem with the educational system, he says, especially in struggling neighborhoods, is that one teacher simply cannot be charged with all the questions and educational needs of 25-30 kids—especially a handful of them have been diagnosed with learning disabilities. For a lot of these students, the basic guidelines of learning do not apply: the way Math is taught to them needs to be tailor-fit to their needs.
Tutoring seems to be the answer: and not tutoring in the sense of study hall, which is common in American high schools, but intensive, teacher-to-student tutoring which zones in on what makes the study material difficult for the student to understand.
The total cost of the study was $4,400 per student. However, Professor Ludwig says that this investment will shrink costs, in the long run because instead of shrinking classes because the cost of hiring would be significantly lower.
The study was modeled around an operation already applying the method, Match Tutors. Their president, Alan Safran says this could definitely be the future of education as hiring tutors is easier than looking for certified teachers—most of their tutors are recent college graduates or people looking to do something before Medical or Law School.
Roland Fryer, a Harvard economist and co-author of Ludwig’s study stresses further that what struggling students need, above and over the academic aspect of education, is the human touch—most of these kids need positive role models look up to; this is why tutoring almost always works and study hall doesn’t. In 2011, he conducted a similar study in Houston and attained similar, consistent results.
Furman University raises $400 million for better quality of education
- To help better out the financial difficulty in decades, Furman University’s supporter have rallied for the past seven years in raising the target school’s capital campaign of $ 400 million that puts the university, and the Greenville community, in a much stable position, Furman officials declared.
- Furman University launched last July 2004 a campaign called “Because Furman Matters” and went public by 2007 that led to almost $225 million guarantee financial aid. Last December 31, officials of the university announced that the said campaign will be put to an ended as the institution raised $406 million already.
- The donations that came in Furman went throughout the governance of the universities past four presidents and Rod Smolla, whose permanent successor is yet to be named, that left last May.
- The report of Interim President and chairman of Furman’s Board of Trustees Carl Kohrt to The Greenville News further expressed that they had not really anticipated as many changes in the university’s leadership. He also quipped that the neat thing about what went through is that the money that people are investing in is for the institution with adequate leadership.
- “But they were giving to what Furman meant to them and will mean to others going forward, not necessarily who was in the chair.” Kohrt says.
- The president of Furman University when the campaign started was David Shi. He was followed by Tom Kazee and then Smolla proceeded by July 2010.
- Officials of Furman states that the success of the “Because Furman Matters” is found to be the largest fund-raising movement that a private college in South Carolina ever accomplished. Furman is among the major liberal arts school in United States. The money raised will be used for aiding programs of the academy, financing scholarships, enhancing the life of the students, renewing the athletic excellence and raising the labors of Greenville’s community.
- The closing of the campaign was set in the particular time that higher educations as well as liberal arts institutions are facing difficulties in attracting students due to the rise of tuition fees and student-loan as well as the high competition towards non-traditional online education available in the internet.
- Addressing the issues will still be up to the succeeding president of the university but necessary cost-cutting have been in line for deliberation to keep Furman’s tuition down for almost 3,000 students.
- Kohrt added that people should look on the cost side to be able to see the cost side if the others would want the help be on an annual basis of sharing the wealth.
- About 27, 250 donors with 78 percent coming from alumni of Furman and 81 percent on the faculty and staff were raised adding to the $ 48 million contributed by the parents of Furman students.
- Kohrt acts as the president of Furman University since further research has been going on in search for a new president. The announcement will be made by the coming 2014 semester.
- The different programs that all Furman’s stakeholders agree with are the revitalization of Poinsett Highway. Renewal of Shi Center for Sustainability that focuses of environmental studies will also be put into action. The Herring Center for Continuing Education will also be financed with the money from the campaign as one of the university’s way of offering various courses to the public.
- Kohrt expressed the university’s gratitude to the generosity of the people and different organizations that have seen the importance of Furman to the nation’s higher education community and contributed in a lot of way to make the campaign’s success possible.
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Passing Rates Keep Plummeting as States Race to the Top
Race to the Top finalists announced on Tuesday is currently the most discussed event on the education agenda. The second round of the competition for $4,3 billion state award yielded positive results but also sparkled the new wave of controversy over the raise of state schools testing standards.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington on Tuesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced 19 winners of the second round of the Race to the Top Program.
400 MBA Students in China to Lose Their Degrees Over “Widespread” Cheating
Centenary College in Hackettstown, New Jersey, is withholding MBA degrees from its 400 students in satellite business schools in China and Taiwan after finding the widespread cases of cheating among local students.
The college officials also said all master programs in Beijing, Shanghai and Taiwan would have to be suspended because of this.
Students are offered to take the comprehensive exam to earn their degree or get a tuition refund, according to Debra Albanese, the school’s vice-president for strategic advancement. They have till the end of the month to decide upon it. So far, most students have opted for the refund of their $1,200-to-$1,400 tuition. Many think it’s a significant downgrade, because the full course is worth more than $25,000 or 36 credits with $705 per each, according to Centenary official website.
America: No Longer the World’s Education Leader!
It’s been expected and now it’s finally happened. The College Board reported last Thursday on the growing gap between the United States and other countries in terms of their college graduation rates.
Together with the overall degradation of American high school education written earlier about, this threatens to undermine the nation’s economic competitiveness.
The United States used to be the world’s number one by its college graduates from 25 to 34 years. Now it ranks only 12th among 36 developed nations.
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Excursus in Historia.
No one would doubt that education level and academic demands were incomparably higher about a century ago than they are now. This is not to do with the typical senile lamenting that the grass was greener and the beer was cheaper far long ago, but it’s quite the fact supported by historical data. In the last decade of 1800s, for instance, only one student in 10 attended high school (though the figure was higher in New England), so education was accessible to only the best and the brightest (and the richest to certain extent).
State Exams Downgraded Impressively, Education Officials Say
N.Y. State education officials have confirmed suspicions of standardized exams downgrading over the last four years and promised the scoring for the next spring tests would be recalibrated. This impends almost inevitable fail for thousands more students.
While state’s scores were high at almost every level, no similar gains were seen in other areas, including national exams, they said.
The surge in the passing rates New York has seen after Michael R. Bloomberg re-election last year, sparkled allegations of school officials making the tests too easy.
More Student Loan Defaults in 15 Years!
While Obama’s student loan info scandal grows, The Chronicle of Higher Education has published its findings that offer new insight into the problem.
Having studied the data of the repayment of student loans over the last 15 years, the Chronicle has found students are defaulting at rates far exceeding even the daring speculations. Moreover, the amount of defaulted loans only increased over time.
Prepare for College? Learn to Read First!
One in five British school-leavers has troubles with reading, while some of them are functionally illiterate, the recent report warns.
Neglecting the traditional classroom methods in favour of fashioned child-led sessions has reaped its bitter crop: at least one in five school-leavers now struggles to read and write. Such deplorable results may have been caused by the overall pedagogical phobia to point out at schoolchildren’s mistakes over concerns of ‘crushing creativity’ or ‘undermining confidence’, the report suggests.
¿Hablas español por casualidad?
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From a Teach-In to the DREAM!
The Melting Pot’s unending immigraniada gained a new spin as illegal immigrants campaign for their education.
Barred from citizenship and, consequently, access to education students immigrants seek help in the DC. Several student immigrant advocacy groups in California, Colorado and Massachusetts set up a makeshift school in Washington on Wednesday similar to one of those teach-ins of the 1960’s to draw the government’s attention to their citizenship problems.
Underfunded California Schools Get Silverscreened
Underfunded schools seek money on the side!
As a non-ceasing recession pinches schooling and education with severe budget cuts, California schools engage in a new way of money earning, which is not that unusual for the renowned star place.
School districts from Lawndale to Glendale are seeking to earn thousands of dollars a day from renting their campuses as locations for movies, TV shows, commercials, and even truck parking.
The money is being used to save teachers’ jobs, upgrade school facilities and replenish districts’ dwindling funds.
China Punishes Cheaters With Prison!
More Intriguing Cheating Cases to Come!
Chinese Court has recently incarcerated eight parents and teachers who resorted to tricks to help children during the entrance exams. Imprisonment terms vary from six months to three years. The defendants were found guilty in getting hold of state secrets.
Three groups of adults were caught trying to help children pass their exams in one of the Chinese schools.
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More On Topic: Draconian Rules Imposed to Combat Cheating!
As technology advances and everyone tries to profit from it, new ethic and legal issues imminently arise. The University of Central Florida (Orlando) has recently introduced the brand-new techno measures in a decisive move to put an end to cheating among the students.
Public Tensions Grow as Austin High School Pulls Scam!
Follow a controversial topic for your research paper or a case study on why high schools indulge in cheating! More intriguing cases to come!
State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh on Friday accused Austin High School of being part of a scam to improperly raise standardized test scores in the El Paso Independent School District.
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Quick Navigation through Custom Essay Writing Service For Australian Students:
- Essay Example for Australian Students
- ProfEssays.com and the needs of Australian Students
- Essay writing in Australia
- Term paper for Australian students
- Essay on racism in Australia
- Creative writing in Australia
- Essay help for Australian students
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Note: ProfEssays.com is an outstanding custom writing company. We have over 500 expert writers with PhD and Masters level educations who are all ready to fulfill your writing needs, regardless of the academic level or research topic. Just imagine, you place the order before you go to sleep and in the morning an excellent, 100% unique essay! or term paper, written in strict accordance with your instructions by a professional writer is already in your email box! We understand the pressure students are under to achieve high academic goals and we are ready help you because we love writing. By choosing us as your partner, you can achieve more academically and gain valuable time for your other interests. Place your order now!”
100% Unique Custom Written Essays and Research Papers
Professays is one of the best writing services for custom essays and research papers. The essays and term papers we script for our clients are written by our panel of experienced and expert writers. We guarantee the exclusivity, uniqueness and authenticity of every custom essay written by us in addition to meeting the deadline.
Australian Students get Professional Essay Writing Help
For students it is a constant defy scripting a well investigated and sound custom essay papers. The specific guidelines given by the professor and the subject of the essay often make students weary. But we at Professays believe in fulfilling all your writing requirements and reducing your worries.
ProfEssays.com: Our Custom Essays are Better than Best Essays
ProfEssays.com is one of the dozens companies providing custom essay and dissertation writing services for those who are short of time or not good at writing. We have English, American, Canadian and even Australian students among our regular and return clients. Having over 500 academic writing professionals we are 100% confident that we can complete the order of any difficulty and academic level in the shortest period of time. The only thing you need to do while placing an order with ProfEsays.com is to provide us with the detailed, clear instructions and specific requirements towards the essay paper or dissertation you expect to receive.
IT essay writing help at ProfEssays
First of all, dear customer, I’d like to advise you not to start any writing activities before deeply studying that Information Technology sphere you’d like to talk about (Similar topic is technical essay writing help). This is a very necessary admission, because nowadays large number of people think that they are literate in IT. Every second “expert” would tell that your abstracts are incorrect and that they know how to make it better.
ProfEssays Offers New Price Scheme for its Custom Essays
ProfEssays Gets Ready for the Final Exams Season
ProfEssays, a US-based professional custom essay and term paper writing service (www.professays.com) hires new essay writers and works in intensified regime during the period of exams at universities.
San Diego, CA — Owing to the fact that the majority of ProfEssays company customers are students from high schools, colleges and universities from all over the world, the period of final tests and exams is considered to be the most tense for the custom essay and term paper writing service. It’s a common knowledge that this period is the most stressful in the lives of all students, since it is connected with completion of numerous tests, various assignments and writing different essays.
ProfEssays to Improve the Delivery of Term Papers and Essays
ProfEssays, a US-based professional custom essay and term paper writing service (www.professays.com) undertakes special measures in order to improve the delivery of completed term papers and custom essays.
San Diego, CA — Due to growing interest in custom essay writing service, ProfEssays improves one of the key points of its work – prompt and in-time delivery of orders. The company considers it to be also one of the main factors of its success and popularity among students of different educational establishments. ProfEssays is aware of the importance of deadline scheduling for representatives of any activities, so the company always tries to meet the terms indicated by its customers and to deliver completed assignments strictly before the deadline.
ProfEssays Masters New Term Paper Formats
Due to great number of customers’ demands, ProfEssays, a US-based professional custom essay and term paper writing service (www.professays.com) acquires new citation styles which are now available for its customers.
San Diego, CA — ProfEssays is frequently characterized as one of the most progressive custom essay and term paper writing services. To prove rightness of this statement, Company masters new citation styles in order to meet all customers’ demands and expectations and to be able to cover even more assignments, and to continue satisfying even the most complicated requirements.
ProfEssays Covers New Term Paper Topics
ProfEssays, a US-based custom essay writing company (www.professays.com) expands the number of essay topics which are covered by its professional US and UK writers due to growing demands that company has been recently receiving from the clients.
ProfEssays Renewed its Customer Support Service
ProfEssays, a US-based custom essay writing company (www.professays.com) proposes its clients to use company’s renewed Customer Support Service.
San Diego, CA (PRWEB) January 29, 2008 — Being the client of ProfEssays means dealing with professionals in all spheres and on all stages of collaboration. So from now on, ProfEssays is always there for its customers any day, anytime, owing to improved work of Customer Support Service.
ProfEssays Enhances the Work of its Anti-Plagiarism Department
ProfEssays, a US-based custom essay writing company (www.professays.com) announces the enhancement of work of its Anti-Plagiarism Department responsible for anti-plagiarism check of custom essays and term papers written by company’s writers.
ProfEssays to Work in Enhanced Regime During Holiday Season
ProfEssays to Work in Enhanced Regime During Holiday Season
ProfEssays, a US-based custom essay writing company (www.professays.com) would like to inform its customers that it is going to work in enhanced regime during holiday season with special emphasis on emergency essays and custom editing and proofreading.
New Essay Writers in ProfEssays Team
Custom essay writing service ProfEssays (www.professays.com) has recently employed twenty essay writers for its two new IT departments.
San Diego, CA (PRWEB) November 13, 2007 — Custom essay writing service www.ProfEssays.com has recently employed twenty essay writers for its two new departments, IT& Science and IT&Arts.
New Season Ahead for ProfEssays
Custom essay writing service ProfEssays (www.professays.com) has started its new writing season to help students cope with their writing assignments in the fall semester.
San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) October 15, 2007 — www.ProfEssays.com announces that it starts out to provide its customers with the services of writing several new types of essays. They are art essays, reflective essays and humanities essays. The company has recently hired experienced and well-educated experts in a number of fields, who are able to conduct research and complete papers on a wide range of subjects and themes.
ProfEssays Develops and Perfects New Custom Essay Writing Services
ProfEssays (www.professays.com), a custom essay writing company located in the US, has announced the creation of a set of new custom writing services to help students avoid problems while completing their school assignments or getting academic degrees.
ProfEssays.com: 100% Unique Custom Written Essays and Research Papers
ProfEssays.com is one of the best writing services for custom essays and research papers. The essays and term papers we script for our clients are written by our panel of experienced and expert writers. We guarantee the exclusivity, uniqueness and authenticity of every custom essay written by us in addition to meeting the deadline.
Custom Essay Paper Written in 6 hours at ProfEssays.com
ProfEssays.com is amongst the finest writing service providers. If you are a student burdened with assignments and cannot find enough time to write the last minute essay, don’t panic, and turn to us.
ProfEssays.com writers are available round the clock to assist you even with your last minute needs. We provide our expertise at reasonably low prices.