Spending Holidays with Grandkids!!

Dear Commons Colleagues,

My daughter, Dawn Marie, husband Bruce and grandkids, Michael Anthony and Alissa, just finished spending two weeks with us.  Their home is Seattle so we don’t get to see them as much as Elaine and I would like.  We did all of the normal New York City things (Museum of Natural History, Rockefeller Center, Times Square).   It was tough driving them to Newark this afternoon so they could catch their flight home.




New Requirements for Race to the Top Funds

Dear Commons Community,

In today’s NY Times OP-ED section there is an interesting piece on new requirements for high schools.   To qualify for “Race to the Top”  federal funding,  the piece alerts school districts to start collecting data on graduates after they leave high school.  Specifically, schools must now show how they increase both college enrollment and the number of students who complete at least a year of college.   This will move more states to consider K-20 data collection systems.

The piece can be found at:



City of Pittsburgh Considers Taxing College Tuition

Dear Commons Community,

The City of Pittsburgh is weighing a proposal to tax tuition at the ten colleges and universities located within its boundaries.  This is not a completely new idea.  Other cities (Providence, Boston) have considered it but Pittsburgh would be the first major city to actually impose such a tax.  Given the non-profit and tax exempt status of most colleges, such a move would likely result in a court challenge.


See Article


“The Fourth Paradigm” of Science Research – More Cloud Computing

Dear Commons Community,

Microsoft Research has just published  a new book that contains essays on “The Fourth Paradigm” described as the new generation of science research.  The new paradigm assumes that computing has fundamentally transformed  the practice of science.

The first three paradigms were experimental, theoretical and, more recently, computational science. The book describes the fourth paradigm as an evolving era in which an “exaflood” of observational data was threatening to overwhelm scientists. The only way to cope with it is a new generation of scientific computing tools to manage, visualize and analyze the data flood. Implicit in the idea of a fourth paradigm is the ability, and the need, to share data. In sciences like physics and astronomy, the instruments are so expensive that data must be shared. Now the data explosion and the falling cost of computing and communications are creating pressure to share all scientific data.  This resonates well with the emerging computing trend known as “the cloud,” an approach being driven by Microsoft, Google, IBM and other companies that believe that, fueled by the Internet, the shift is toward centralization of computing facilities.


See Article in NY Times on this Topic


NYS Regents to Consider Expanding Power to Take Over Schools

Dear Commons Community,

Newsday is reporting that the NYS Regents will be considering a plan to expand its powers to take over poorly performing public schools.  Part of the proposal would allow charter schools, universities and private contractors to manage schools instead of local school boards or local education departments.

The Newsday article is available at:  http://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/ny-regents-look-at-expanding-school-takeovers-1.1650662


Why Students Drop Out of College – Public Agenda Study

Dear Commons Community,

In today’s New York Times, there is a summary of a report just completed by the Public Agenda and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The report,

“With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them,”

was based on a recent survey of more than 600 individuals aged 22 to 30, comparing those who started a college education but did not complete it with those who received a degree or certificate from a two- or four-year institution.  There are a number of issues raised in this report that should resonate well with those of us who teach and work at CUNY.    Perhaps the most significant was the need for students to work while attending college.   The top reason the dropouts gave for leaving college was that it was just too hard to support themselves and go to school at the same time.

Of particular interest were the responses to a question:

“How would the following help someone whose circumstances are similar to yours were after high school in getting a college degree?”

The top three responses were:

Allow part-time students to qualify for financial aid – 81%
Offer more courses in the evenings, on weekends or in the summer so people can work whileattending school – 78%
Cut the cost of attending collegeby 25 percent – 78%

The three lowest responses were:

Improve teaching so the classes are more interesting and relevant – 67%
Put more classes online – 57%
Make the college application process easier – 50%

Those of us particularly interested in online learning can feel either positive or not so positive with these results.  While fully half of these students feel online learning would help them complete a degree, there are a number of other things  more important to them.

The NY Times article is available at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/10/education/10graduate.html?_r=1&th&emc=th


David Brooks, Innovation, Education Reform and Community Colleges

Dear Commons Community,

David Brooks presents a series of recommendations in his NY Times column today about innovation and the American economy.  He starts with several pertinent suggestions for education essentially supporting the Obama administration plan.  The community college piece of this plan keeps gaining support.

See:  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/08/opinion/08brooks.html?th&emc=th


7th Sloan-C Conference and Workshop on Blended Learning

Dear Commons Community,

I just want to alert you that the call for papers is out for the Sloan Consortium’s 7th Annual Conference and Workshop on Blended Learning.  If you have never attended this event, I would strongly urge you to consider doing so if you are interested in blended learning issues.  George Otte and I have been on the planning committee for this conference/workshop and I can assure you that it is first-rate, much more intimate (probably no more than 200 attendees) than most other events of this type.  The conference/workshop is being sponsored by the University of Illinois-Chicago and will be held in Oak Brook, Ill, just outside of Chicago in April.    I would also urge you to consider submitting a paper for presentation.  See the URL below.


7the Sloan-C Conference and Workshop on Blended Learning

Thinking about Afghanistan – Tom Friedman

Dear Commons Community,

I am not a big Tom Friedman fan but he has an interesting column today in the NY Times.  On the day after President Obama’s talk at West Point, I agree with his basic thesis that we need to do more nation building especially for our children and our children’s children here in the USA before we can support a costly, long war to build a nation in Afghanistan.


Tom Friedman Column NY Times 12/02/09