’VOTES’ Students Sharply Divided on Iran and Energy Policy, Find Common Ground on Money in Politics – And First Two Debates

SONOMA, Calif. and NORTHFIELD, Mass. (October 29, 2012) – Just like the candidates battling for the White House, some of the nation’s best and brightest secondary students hold sharply opposing views on a number of the most contentious issues in this year’s campaign.

Especially if those issues have to do with energy.

That’s one of the key findings of a new series of Blast polls in this year’s national VOTES Project (Voting Opportunities for Teenagers in Every State), an initiative spearheaded by Northfield Mount Hermon (NMH), a prestigious private school in Massachusetts, and StudySync (www.studysync.com), the web-based Common Core curriculum from BookheadEd Learning, LLC.

The only program of its kind in the country, the VOTES Project brings together more than 100 public and private schools nationwide, as well as schools internationally, to give students a voice in the 2012 election. The most recent VOTES Project Blast polls, conducted throughout October, asked students to weigh in on hot topics in domestic and foreign policy. Blasts are short reading and writing assignments, using StudySync technology, that address timely, high-interest topics of cultural significance.

In perhaps the thorniest question of the campaign season, students were asked the best approach to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons technology. A majority – 56.5 percent – expressed support for “position(ing) American military equipment and personnel in the region to demonstrate a willingness to strike if Iran does not cease its nuclear weapons program,” while 43.5 percent agreed that the U.S. should “continue to apply sanctions through the United Nations and follow the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”

Some 637 students nationwide responded to the first question, generating 5,827 peer reviews – that is, student comments and feedback from within the VOTES Project/StudySync community. The most popular post came from this high school student in Northfield, Mass.: “The U.S. should observe what Iran is doing, and apply these sanctions, but also be ready to enforce these sanctions with a line in the sand.” And a middle school student in Kaysville, Utah, offered this: “I do not think that we should threaten them with military, because if they do have weapons it could make them feel inclined to use them.”

Students were even more divided on the matter of the Keystone Pipeline and U.S. energy policy overall. By the narrowest of margins – 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent – VOTES students endorsed construction of the Keystone Pipeline across the U.S. midsection.

On the Keystone question, 498 students responded, generating 4,396 peer review comments. Among those posts was this from a Northfield, Mass. high schooler: “More oil creates jobs, but it is bad for the environment. Renewable energy also creates jobs. Consider factors that will affect the future.” A middle school student was even more emphatic: “We should go completely green, thereby reducing pollution and global warming, while helping the economy. It’s win-win!”

Taking On the Campaign Itself
If students split on matters of oil and nukes, they were united – largely in opposition – to the Citizens United court ruling and the expansive role of money in politics. When asked, “Should corporations, unions, and Super PACs be permitted to spend as much money as they want to support or oppose political candidates?” nearly three quarters of the 684 students polled – 73.4 percent – said no. Among the 5,349 peer review comments, this one, from a high school student in Brenham, Texas, was rated highest: “Not everyone has the same buying power, so each political party should be given the same amount of money to use. It’s only fair.” And a student in Hoover, Alabama, posted this: “I think it is outrageous. I get it, the rich endorse the politicians so they kind of owe them, but the less fortunate still need a voice.”

Student opinion of the first two presidential debates was in sync with the conventional wisdom and the verdict of most of the mainstream media, with 67.5 percent giving the October 3 debate to Mitt Romney and 61.5 percent judging President Obama the winner of the October 16 encounter.
Of the first debate, a Northfield high school student offered this: “President Obama did not articulate his words well enough to convince the opposing sides. Mitt Romney gave a very good argument.” And in response to the second face-off, a student in Kaysville, Utah, observed: “You never know what promises either of the candidates will keep. What things are promised has a huge pull on what your opinions are.”

“From both the raw numbers and the insightful commentary, today’s secondary school students are every bit as engaged in Campaign 2012 as their elders,” said Jim Shea, NMH history teacher and VOTES co-founder. “As the VOTES Project progresses this season, we continue to be impressed by the level of understanding among students across the country — and by their eagerness to share their opinions on the issues and the electoral process itself.”

“Educators strive to engage students with topics relevant to their lives,” said Robert Romano, founder and CEO, BookheadEd Learning. “StudySync’s Blasts provide an immediate connection by delivering current events in a meaningful and interactive way. We’re especially pleased with the response the Blast polls have provided with the VOTES Project in classrooms across the nation, giving students the opportunity to participate in this important national conversation.”
NMH created VOTES 1988 and has run the program for all six presidential elections since then. In 2008, 60,000 students from every state in the nation cast ballots of their own and sent them to Northfield Mount Hermon a week before Election Day. For the 2012 race, the polls will wrap up just prior to Election Day, when students will select one of the two candidates.

In addition to counting the popular vote, NMH’s mock election simulates the Electoral College process. According to NMH, teen voters have correctly predicted the results of the national presidential election in every race since 1988, with the exception of the 2004 contest. Turnout in participating schools approaches 80 percent — twice the average turnout in national elections. The project teaches students about the democratic process, tests their political savvy, and reveals the age group’s political leanings through an issues poll.

An innovative, web‐delivered academic tool, StudySync was created by leading national educators with the goal of inspiring higher levels of critical thinking and academic collaboration. Aligned to the Common Core State Standards, StudySync targets middle and high school students, enlisting broadcast-quality video, digital media, mobile platforms and social learning to advance students’ reading, writing and critical thinking abilities.

Flexible and easy‐to‐navigate, StudySync places control fully in the hands of the educator, enabling teachers to integrate the product into their current classroom curriculum any way they see fit. StudySync is also intended to be used across disciplines – for language arts classrooms and for science, social studies, history and other subject areas as well.

About BookheadEd Learning, LLC
BookheadEd Learning connects high school and middle school students to the great ideas of mankind through technology, multimedia, and a rich library of classic and modern texts. StudySync, its award-winning flagship product, uses web-delivered educational tools – including broadcast-quality video, digital media, mobile platforms and social networking —to help teachers inspire higher levels of students’ reading, writing, critical thinking, academic discourse and peer-to-peer collaboration. An AEC and SIIA CODiE Awards finalist, StudySync is the recipient of two BESSIE Awards and the EDDIE Award from ComputED Gazette, “Trendsetter” recognition from EdTech Digest, District Administration’s “Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products” award, and inclusion on Edudemic’s list of the Top 50 edtech tools. CEO/co-founder Robert Romano is among EdTech Digest’s “50 Fascinating Entrepreneurs.” Based in Sonoma, Calif. with an office in Cambridge, Mass., BookheadEd is comprised of educators and experts who believe “Together We’re Smarter.” To learn more about BookheadEd Learning and its StudySync educational platform, visit www.studysync.com.

Media contact:
Ken Greenberg
Edge Communications, Inc.

About Northfield Mount Hermon
Northfield Mount Hermon, commonly referred to as NMH, is a co-educational independent boarding school for students in grades 9–12 and postgraduate. The school is located on the banks of the Connecticut River in western Massachusetts near Gill, Massachusetts. NMH was founded in 1879. The school provides, “Education of the head, the heart, and the hand.” Our mission is to engage the intellect, compassion, and talents of our students, empowering them to act with humanity and purpose. The school enrolls 650 students who come from more than 45 states and 35 countries. NMH is a member of the Eight Schools Association, which comprises Phillips Academy (known as Andover), Phillips Exeter Academy, Choate Rosemary Hall, Deerfield Academy, Hotchkiss School, Lawrenceville School, and St. Paul’s School.

Media contact:
Cheri Cross
Director of Communications
Northfield Mount Hermon


Solano community college reduces costs, increases access with new learning program

Solano Community College Partners with Pearson to Reduce Costs and Increase Access to Higher Education

Integrated Digital Content and Technology Platform Solution Addresses Recent Cuts to California Community College Funding

Fairfield, CA October 25, 2012 – Solano Community College, serving 11,000 students annually, has partnered with Pearson to launch an integrated blended learning program designed to increase access to course content and reduce costs to students.

Pearson provides access to digital content through its Pearson LearningStudio learning management system. The integrated solution is the first in California at a not-for-profit institution that combines digital content and the LMS for a single, reduced student price. The unique offering enables Solano instructors to “opt in” to any of the Pearson digital materials, which will then be integrated into their face-to-face, online or blended courses.

“The state of California has made large spending cuts over the past several years. Like many other colleges throughout the state, these cuts have resulted in a drastic reduction in funds and resources for our college,” said Dr. Jowel C. Laguerre, Superintendent and President of Solano Community College District. “Partnering with Pearson has enabled us to continue the growth of our distance education program, while creating an educationally efficient model that reduces our annual costs to students.”

“California’s community colleges, with 2.6 million students, make up one of the largest public higher education systems in the country,” said Don Kilburn, Vice Chairman of Pearson Higher Education and CEO of Pearson Learning Solutions. “Our long-standing partnership with Solano demonstrates our commitment to finding innovative, new ways to help institutions provide access to higher education, even in a tough economic climate.”

The innovative Pearson solutions included as part of the partnership include:

Pearson LearningStudio, a cloud-based learning management system with advanced data analytics to monitor and analyze trends in student performance, and track their achievement of learning objectives
MyLab and Mastering series of personalized learning technology programs
Award-winning CourseConnect™ customizable online courses
Pearson eText, an easy-to-use library of content available to students anywhere they have Internet access

Solano Community College (SCC) is a two-year institution of higher learning located in Fairfield, Solano County, California (between San Francisco and Sacramento). It is part of California’s public community college system made up of 109 campuses in 72 districts across the state.

About Pearson

Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, has global reach and market-leading businesses in education, business information and consumer publishing (NYSE: PSO). The company provides innovative print and digital education materials, including personalized learning programs such as MyLab and Mastering; education services including custom publishing; and content-independent platforms including the EQUELLA digital repository and Pearson LearningStudio for online learning programs.

Media Contact: Susan Aspey, susan(dot)aspey(at)pearson(dot)com or (800) 745-8489


How to lock in tuition at 270 private colleges

A new online resource debuted last week to showcase one college savings option for future students and their parents, U.S. News reports. On TomorrowsTuitionToday.org, users can learn about the Private College 529 Plan, a savings vehicle that allows account holders to purchase prepaid tuition certificates to one of 270 (and counting) private colleges, including Brandeis University, Claremont McKenna College, and Wake Forest University. Parents who can bundle away $2,000 now, for example, are effectively purchasing $2,000 worth of today’s tuition at one of the participating private colleges, no matter when they claim it. Unlike in state-sponsored prepaid tuition plans, which are guaranteed only if state budgets remain fully funded, the private schools pledge to accept the tuition certificates purchased when tuition was lower. Opening a Private College 529 Plan does not guarantee admission to any of the participating schools; in fact, colleges do not give special consideration to account holders during the admissions process, says Nancy Farmer, president and chief executive officer of the Tuition Plan Consortium, which oversees the Private College 529 Plan…

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Colleges postpone application deadlines

Superstorm Sandy is buying some high school seniors a few more days to finish their early-round college applications, with a number of selective colleges extending deadlines that were set to fall later this week, the Associated Press reports. Most students applying to college face deadlines in January or on a rolling cycle throughout the year, but many selective schools have “early decision,” ”early action,” or “priority” rounds whose Nov. 1 deadlines for applications and letters of recommendation fall on Thursday this year. With the storm threatening widespread power outages and other disruptions along the East Coast, the National Association for College Admission Counseling called on colleges to extend deadlines if appropriate, and a number of schools were announcing via blog post, e-mail, or Twitter their plans to do so…

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Major initiative in California depends on college students

With support for Proposition 30 sliding among California voters, the decision to approve the initiative, which would raise taxes on the wealthy to increase funding for public education, could fall to students at the state’s public universities, the Huffington Post reports. Championed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), Prop 30 would raise state income taxes on individuals making over $250,000 and temporarily raise the state sales tax by one quarter of one cent. California stands to gain $6.8 billion in revenue annually if it passes. But if it fails, K-12 schools, community colleges and state universities will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in appropriations and college students would face massive tuition hikes. Students at the University of California, for example, would suffer a mid-year $2,400 increase in tuition. The most recent poll, from USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times released on Oct. 25, found support for Prop 30 has plunged to 46 percent of registered voters, down from 64 percent in March, with 42 percent of voters opposed to the measure…

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Tech helps faculty, students interact ‘in much richer ways’

WebEx Social solves the challenge of dealing with several different student identities and sign-ons for various social networks.

Collaborative learning isn’t new, but technology is giving it a new spin and is making it easier to exchange ideas and complete group projects—regardless of where students or instructors happen to be.

Duke University is working with Cisco Systems to pilot a cloud-based social collaboration tool, called WebEx Social for Higher Education, that is geared toward the needs of higher education in particular. Students in an MBA program at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, along with business school students in other countries around the world, have used the tool to work online asynchronously while being able to track and participate in what other students are working on.

The students worked together to create and edit videos that shared their experience in other countries and other cultures. They could comment on the videos and other course materials, share their expertise on different topics, and engage in other “standard social networking” activities, says Tracy Futhey, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Duke.

The tool is particularly useful, Futhey says, because it solves the challenge of dealing with several different student identities and sign-ons for various social networks.

“With other systems, you need a different log-in, you have a different account, [and] people have to know how to contact you on each one,” Futhey says. “You end up with 30 different accounts for 30 different entities—Facebook, Skype, eMail, you name it. This gives us the ability to integrate [and collaborate online] with one identity.”

Mark McCahill, an information systems architect at Duke, describes WebEx Social as a tool that is like Facebook, but resides “behind the firewall” of a college or university—meaning campus leaders have more control over security. Its “combination of asynchronous collaboration and an activity feed of who’s doing what—plus real-time interaction—has been a win,” he says.

The system’s home page is like a personalized dashboard that displays a calendar, activity stream, and a “Watch List” to help users keep track of posts and activities that are most relevant to them.

Creating a post to share content with others is as easy to creating an eMail message. Users can attach a variety of media types (regardless of file size), share posts with members of specific teams or groups, and control who has permission to comment on, edit, and share posts.


In world first, biggest refugee camp gets university

Refugees in the world’s largest refugee camp will soon be able to go for higher education at the world’s first university being set up near a camp for its inhabitants, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The campus is being set up by Kenya‘s Kenyatta University (KU) near the sprawling “city” of tents of Dadaab, where more than 500,000 people are sheltering from war and famine. It will serve both refugees and local Kenyans. Humanitarian officials hail it as a first for refugees, while education experts say it’s a creative solution for cases of long-term conflict in Africa

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Should state education chiefs be elected or appointed?

If it were up to Walter Dalton and Pat McCrory, they’d have a little less company on the ballot in North Carolina this year, Stateline reports. In particular, they wouldn’t be sharing space with candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Dalton and McCrory are opposing gubernatorial nominees, but they agree on one thing: The governor ought to be able to appoint the state’s top education official. It doesn’t appear that wish will be granted anytime soon — making the office appointive would require a constitutional amendment. But the proper role of the schools chief is central to the campaign of Democrat June Atkinson, who currently holds the position in North Carolina, and to some of her counterparts across the country. Some 13 states currently make their top education official subject to a popular vote. And in virtually every one of those states, there are critics who ask why such an office should be so deeply involved in politics…

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The art of a college education: Getting schooled at Academy of Art

In the past two decades, the Academy of Art has grown 10 times in size to nearly 20,000 students, the Huffington Post reports. And administrators are pushing for more: a recent school master plan projects a student population of nearly 25,000 within five years, roughly the same number of undergraduates who attend the University of California at Berkeley. It is the only arts school in the nation with both NCAA basketball and baseball teams. The university has opened recruiting offices in Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand. It’s created a massive online division, aimed at beaming courses on classical sculpture and video game animation taught by teachers located as far away as Scotland to thousands of virtual students across the world. As the Academy of Art has expanded, so has the local prestige of its owner, Elisa Stephens. The 52-year-old lawyer has become a fixture in San Francisco high society, and is a regular attendee at fundraisers thrown by the city’s political and social elite. Her mansion sits atop Nob Hill, one of the city’s most exclusive zip codes…

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