The Reasons Why You Can’t Get College Educated Are Running Out

People without a college degree have a much harder time finding work, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor. Even in economic good times the difference between a lifetime working with a degree and one with just a highs school diploma can be nearly one million dollars. That’s a lot of lost income and is a sure lot more than what even the priciest four-year universities charge for tuition. The statistics don’t lie: a college education is overwhelmingly worth it. But don’t shrug off college as a luxury of the gifted and affluent and something beyond your meager means of getting. This country needs talented people specifically educated to carry out vital tasks that keep the national economy moving. The government knows it and so do our nation’s educators. They want to do something about it, but they obviously need your help.

Recent student loan reforms the U.S. government made into law last year have done tremendous things for those who beforehand struggled to navigate the complications and cost of student loans. There once was a time when the expense and inaccessibility of student loans legitimately inhibited high school graduates and working adults from seeking higher education. However, in 2010 the federal government took control of most of the student loan process, which had previously been operating through dozens of financial institutions despite federal funding being the primary provider of loans. This means interest rates are not only going to be cheaper, they’re going to be more securely put into place.

But excuses for not getting a four-year degree begin to really fall apart when you think about all the different avenues in which higher education providers are making to make it easier for people to get a degree. Evening programs have flourished across college campuses in the last decade or so as more and more working professionals are deciding to go back to school. Online colleges and universities, whether technical or even doctoral, are granting unprecedented access to their highly-praised programs. All you need to do is provide the will, as most universities and colleges have provided the way.

The only way to know for sure is to see for yourself. Browse online rankings and compare the multiple programs available to you. Talk to admissions counselors and financial aid advisors who are there to help answer all the questions potential pupils throw at them. Chances are anything you have to ask they’ve already got experience dealing with. The only thing separating you with hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra income you can earn in your lifetime might just be your own inhibitions about the possibility of getting a degree.

Tutoring to fit your life

I know this will shock you but I am a big geek! I LOVE technology especially internet technology. I think it is incredible when people find practical internet applications for things we do every day. The exciting new company I have found today that you HAVE to try is TutorVista. Say you are a college student and you need Statistics Help or Calculus Help. Or maybe you are a high school student needing help with Algebra Help or Geometry Help. There are a ton of aids online where you can read and do problems in these subjects but TutorVista has used the brilliant idea of using internet interactivity to truly tutor a person where they are.

The concept is so simple and yet so brilliant. Say you need Math Homework Help. You interact live with a tutor via chat as well as an interactive whiteboard. Your tutor can see the work you are doing (as in the specific problem you are working on and how you are getting (or not getting) your answers). They can also write on the shared whiteboard and show you where you made your mistakes. All the things a tutor can do with you in person, right on your computer screen. The tutors have a curriculum that meets the highest standard or they can help with the assignments you are needing help with. Not only is it convenient and easy to use but your TutorVista tutors are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. So when you need help you can get it. You can get access to all subjects anytime day or night for only $99. Heck as parents we could easily spend more money than that in a month just driving our kids back and forth to the tutor.

So let’s review. A regular tutor you have to schedule time and you have to go to them. With TutorVista the tutor is available 24/7 right there in your home whenever you need it. They provide a free demo for first-time users so you can try it out for free and see just how amazing it is. What could be better than that? I think once you try this service you will be glad you did.

Technology to advance education

The longer you read this blog the more you will know just how important I believe the use of technology is to the successful advancement of our education system. I was so excited the other day when I wrote about TutorVista that I did some more looking to see what others have to say about the fantastic tutoring program. Let’s see what others are saying:

* Reviews for tutorvista – They recommend TutorVista and though they point out the price as being high, they also note that the price is for an entire month of tutoring vs the average cost being around $25 an hour for a one on one private tutor.

* Reviews for tutorvista – This review done by teachers, for teachers recommend TutorVista as a powerful online tutoring took and a better and more cost effective solution (especially in small towns) then other learning centers.

* Reviews for tutorvista – Wikipedia shows that though the company initially struggled to gain acceptance given that it was founded by an unknown Indian company, they have now received backing from noted educational materials companies as American Book Company and Pearson.

For a company just out of the start-up phase TutorVista is rapidly gained acceptance in Education community. Their combination of technologies is what I think gives them the edge. Making use of internet phone for one on one conversations; online collaborative whiteboard software; and internet chat technology is a giant leap in the right direction for our education system. I believe that the more we embrace the possibilities presented to us by technology the more we can dramatically advance the education system in America. But that’s just my opinion – do some looking then let me know what you think.

McCain to Discuss Education

According to this article, McCain is saying some things but nothing that I feel strongly one way or the other about.  The part of the article that really interested me is that McCain is to discuss his education platform at the end of summer.  I’m so excited that there will BE an education platform that I hardly know what to do with myself.  One assumes (yes, I know where assumptions can get me) that a platform might have actual information.  That would be so wonderful!  Don’t get me wrong I’m not going to go with a candidate just based on what he has to say about education but it is going to have a lot of pull.  After all, the way our children are taught will have one of the most long-lasting effects on our country.  As a teacher, I can tell you that I’m a bit worried about how our country is going to handle the generation that is coming up for graduation.

What issues in education are you hoping McCain addresses at the ‘end of summer’?  I’m looking forward to some information about No Child Left Behind, vouchers, standardized tests and national standards.

Prayer in Schools



I bet that got your attention.  You are probably either really for it or really against it.  Either way here is an interesting little story from across the pond for you.  This story talks about children who after a lesson on Islam were asked to pray to Allah.  Ummm what?  That would soooo never happen here.  Additionally, they were punished when the refused.  Can you believe that a school actually disciplined children for not wanting to recite something that was showing allegiance to a god they did not worship (never you mind that Allah and the Christian God are the same, from a historical and theological standpoint anyway)?

I bet you’re wondering where I’m going well, I’m almost there 🙂  American schools do this ALL the time.  It is called the Pledge of Allegiance.  Does the phrase “one nation under God” sound familiar?  Hmmm??? Whose God do you think that little bit of wording is referring to?  The Christian God.  That isn’t mandatory, you say?  Oh really?? Every principal I’ve ever worked for told me to make the students say it through example or intimidation or whatnot.  Of course, I didn’t do it.  As a matter of fact, I’d stand and be respectfully silent every morning as it was said.  The students finally got around to asking me why I didn’t say it and I said I had a variety of reasons.  The one I usually gave was that I once had a student from another country (in this case Canada) who at the end of one school year asked me what the pledge meant and why we said it every day.  I asked her why she’d done it all year long if she didn’t know and she said she’d been afraid not to because she thought it was mandatory.  She thought it was mandatory because in practice it is even if it isn’t in law.  Peer pressure at its best, people.  I explained what it was etc and told her she didn’t have to say it if she didn’t want to (boy would I get chewed out about that if it got back to our superintendent).  From that moment on I refused to be a part of the brainwashing/peer pressure culture of our school.

All rambling aside, for those of you who were outraged that a child would be ‘forced’ to pray to Allah please take a moment to reflect on the Pledge of Allegiance.  How would you feel if it said: “one nation under Allah” (Allah just means God, folks)  Would you be comfortable with your child being pressured to stand and say the pledge if it was rewritten to say, Allah?  No?  Then why is it ok to pressure students to say the pledge now??

FCAT Reading Camp



If you want some detailed information (or a general idea at least) of what I mean when I say FCAT reading camp you can check out a news article about one in Orange County here.

If you aren’t from Florida you should know that the FCAT is our standardized test that is given to make sure students are performing at a certain standard (well, that’s what it is supposed to be for).  If you fail the reading portion of the FCAT in the third grade you fail the third grade as well.  (Hmm, well most of the time anyway..there are ways around that little rule so don’t think that means everyone who makes it out of the third grade actually knows what they are supposed to, but I digress).  If you fail the test you are allowed to participate in an intensive FCAT reading camp for part of the summer.  The curriculum is set by the school district and is different from county to county.  I’ve actually taught at one of the FCAT Reading Camps and therefore am not totally blowing steam when I tell you it isn’t worth the money the districts have to pay teachers.

Honestly, I am quite expensive at an hourly rate and I’m by no means (not even close) the most expensive teacher out there.  As a matter of fact, I live in a rural area (read we get paid less than those big city teachers) and I didn’t have decades of experience when I taught the program.  Even with all of that, I was paid close to $25 per hour for this program.  I taught my little heart out and did everything in the program and bought stickers and special pencils to help motivate my kids.  I planned for hours and even got a local bookstore involved and helped to set up a little ‘bookstore’ at the school where the children got to pick books to take home and keep. (they loved this by the way).  Don’t forget that in addition to paying me the district also paid for the transportation of the children and their lunches and the curriculum etc.  Guess how many passed the test? (out of a class of oh say 6).  NONE.  And would you like to know why??  Was it the fault of the curriculum? Nope, pretty decent.  My fault?  Not in my opinion but then I suppose I am biased.  Whose fault then?  No ones.

The reason is hinted at in the article referenced above.  The reason these kids didn’t do any better on the second test is that:

  1. Their attendance wasn’t mandatory.  Many of the students went on ‘vacation’.  This speaks to a lack of parent involvement and dedication.  What is more important your child’s education or going to the beach?  The same parents that answered beach are the ones whose children wracked up record absences during the school year.  If you aren’t in school you won’t learn.
  2. Many students were not native speakers of English.  Instead of getting year-round intensive instruction many are tossed into the general population.  How do you think you’d do if you were plopped into a Russian school in the third grade?  Hmmm??? and if that didn’t work out do you think an extra month of ‘intensive’ instruction would fix it?
  3. Students with learning disabilities.  One of my angels (and I actually mean that because this student was such a sweetheart) had an IQ that was around 70 which is classified as “extremely low”  This child will never receive a standard diploma and will eventually be on special standards.  There were other students with what I believed were undiagnosed learning disabilities but nothing I could do about them (as in I couldn’t diagnose because that is a ‘process’ that has to begin during the school year) except note the problems I saw in my end of lesson notes.
  4. You then have students that had ‘problems’ throughout the school year.  These could be discipline or family related.  Again, nothing that is typically resolved by the summer.

So what is my point?  My point is I think these camps are pointless.  I don’t think they are cost effective.  If the child didn’t get it during an ENTIRE school year a few weeks in camp isn’t going to fix it.  For students with learning difficulties or who are new the English language another year in the same grade is a good thing.  It gives them a whole extra year to become proficient in the skills they are going to need in the next grade.  For students who had other “issues”, bad choices should result in consequences.  If you choose not to come to school, messed around while at school, or “Christmas-treed’ the test then you shouldn’t be given another opportunity, you should fail.  Period.  The idea that everyone is intellectually equal is ridiculous and offensive.  People are different and that is ok.  If it takes you two years to make it through a grade but at the end of those two years you are ready for the next step then that is fine.

What do you think about the extra programs in the summer to help students who haven’t managed in the entire previous year to master standards move on?  Do you think it is possible to cram a year’s worth of information into a few weeks?  Do you think it is an effective and/or fair way to use taxpayer dollars?

Education Platform

This is what I’m talking about!  Some decent media coverage about putting education front and center in the presidential election.  It makes me happy that someone who can do something (as in not just me and my little blog) is trying to make this a national issue.  As a matter of fact, the article says that polls are showing that education and the economy are ranking as more important than the war in Iraq.

I was all kinds of shocked to hear that.  I mean the war in Iraq IS important and all of the men and women over there should definitely be in our minds this election season but that is what everyone is focusing on in the media.  There cause doesn’t need me to go around waving the banner.  Education, on the other hand, does need some banner waving.

One last thing, I’m not by any means saying I’m with Watts on what he thinks needs to be done with education but any discussion at all is better than what I have been seeing!

Do you think education will play an important role in the presidential election this year or am I just dreaming??

Back to School Shopping

As schools around the country get ready to start many parents are worried about the expense of back to school shopping.  I have one thing to say to you.  SALES.  As a teacher I became at expert at scouring school supply sales.  I think it is actually a requirement that you be addicted to school and office supplies to become a teacher.  I’ve found that the two best times to get crazy bargains are the month before schools open and the month after.

Before school opens all of the stores have amazing bargains on a few things.  These are the things you want to purchase.  Go to the school your child will be in and get a list of everything he or she will need. Then watch the sales papers for all the stores in town and grab their loss leaders as you find items that are on your list.  I recently saw five packs of mechanical pencils for only .o5.  The same for sharpies and notebook paper. The stores do this so you’ll come in and then see the pretty, shiny, full priced items and drop a ton of cash on those.  Your goal is to get in and out of the store with only those super cheap items.

Don’t worry if you don’t find everything you need on sale right away.  Usually students are fine for the first week or so with only paper and something to write with.  It is after the first few weeks of school that the truly amazing sales take place.  I’ve seen lunch boxes for 80% off and they will practically give away paper, notebooks, crayons, markers, pencils, and colored pencils.  If you can hold off till these sales you will spend only a fraction of what everyone else is spending on school supplies.  Even if you do give in and buy a lot of your items before the sales, consider stocking up once the sales hit.  This will save you last minute runs to the store later in the school year and you now eventually you will use the product!

Do you have any great tips for saving money on your back to school supplies?  Share so we can all save money together

Healthy School Lunches



Okay, first I should tell you that the healthy school lunch isn’t to be found in an American public school.  Chef Dominique Valadier is the man who purchases the majority of the food served at the school within a thirty mile radius of the school and then prepares it with little or no frozen ingredients.  All at the cost of about $3 per student.  If you want the full story you can check it out here.  Makes cafeteria food sound yummy!

So here is what I was wondering…why can’t we do the same kind of thing here.  I mean I’ve heard the odd story about our schools getting healthier and you hear about the ‘war on obesity’ all the time BUT I don’t see many changes in actual school lunches.  At the schools I’ve worked at the usual lunches were pizza, some variety of meat nuggets, fried this and that.  Yes, we started having salads but they consisted of iceburg lettuce a few slices of tomato and cucumber and cheese.  Uhm…not so nutritionally superior in my opinion.

Wouldn’t it be great if all public schools were required to follow health guidelines just as they are required to follow curriculum guidelines?  If the government is going to control the schools then dang it they could do something about the food while they were at it.  Or, and this is probably the solution I like better, they could privatize schools completely.  I’m pretty sure if parents were picking where their kids were going to school and had an influence in where their education dollars were going they’d be more vocal and more insistent in their cries for healthy food.

Do you think school lunchrooms should strive to make healthy food a priority?  Do you think the government should force public schools to serve healthy (and tasty, of course) food?  OR do you think the government should back off all the regulating and let the private sector take over?

Back to School Blues

Summer is winding down and kids are starting to think about ‘having’ to go back to school.  I can’t really fuss at the kids for this because as a teacher I felt the same way.  It is so nice to be completely free for a few months (well as a teacher not completely free because there are all of those summer workshops but mostly free at least).  There are a few things you can do to get your kids ready to start a new school year but they aren’t necessarily things your kids are going to be happy about.  I suggest them because doing them now will make actually going back to school so much easier for you as a parent, and for your child.

* Get back on a regular sleep schedule.

* Often children stop having a bed time and wake up time in the summer.  A few weeks before school starts implement both.

* Exercise

* Twenty years ago I wouldn’t have had to say this (or rather a teacher wouldn’t have to give this advice because twenty years ago I was a student).  Too many kids spend all summer sitting on their butt.  Once they go back to school they will be expected to jump back into the P.E. groove.  In most parts of the country it is still very warm (or if you are where I am DANGED HOT).  Make sure they start playing outside for half an hour to an hour each day continuously to get ready for P.E.

* Review

* Try to review the big concepts they learned last year so they will be ready for new information this year.  This is especially important in math because math skills build each year on the skills learned the previous year.  Trust me, your child will have a much easier time if he or she has had a chance to review.

* Go over expectations.

* Let your child know what kind of behavior and study habits you expect from them.  Some parents think their children should just ‘know’.  They don’t.  There kids, you’re the adult.  Tell them what you want.

Are there any other ways you try to help your child get prepared for the upcoming school year?

School Politics

* During staff meetings don’t ask questions:  Experienced teachers want to get out and will resent you.  Instead, find a teacher you trust and ask him or her.  If that doesn’t apply ask the secretary, principal, or vice principal.

* About school secretaries: They know absolutely everything.  Be very, very nice to them and chat them up if you want to know what is going on before everyone else.

* Be nice to everyone:  This is less a political thing than a pet peeve.  It irks me no end to see teachers being dismissive of the custodians.  I loved all of our custodians, they kept my room running and watched out for my classes when I had subs.

Teaching Tips

* You are not there to be friends with the students:  You are there teacher, it doesn’t matter if they hate you as long as you can keep them under control and teach them.  This doesn’t mean be a total jerk to them, just don’t try to make them ‘like’ you.  Just do your job.

* Don’t assign homework that will take you hours to grade: Homework is to help children learn but it isn’t the main point.  You aren’t going to be allowed to base their grade on their homework so don’t kill yourself grading it.

* Don’t take on a lot of clubs and sports:  This may not seem like a teaching tip, but it is.  If you are spending a ton of nights and weekend time working on the extra stuff you’ll have less time for teaching stuff.  You are there to teach, it needs to be your top priority.  When done right it isn’t an easy job.  Give yourself some time to learn the ropes before you jump into a lot of extras.

If you are a new teacher do you have any questions or need some advice?  If you are an experienced teacher do you have any tips to add??

First Year Teacher

I have a bit of a theme going lately, back to school.  I was thinking about all the first year teachers my old school just hired and was then thinking about my first year teaching.  I got very lucky my first year when I found an experienced teacher who took me under her wing.  She helped me navigate all the school politics that I wasn’t expecting and also gave me helpful teaching tips.  Now it’s time to give back.  Here are a few of the things I learned.