TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 25

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. “White people who are sick and tired of racism should work hard to become white allies.” Here’s how.

By Janee Woods in Quartz

2. We can’t afford to ignore the innovative history of developing countries as we face the impact of climate change.

By Calestous Juma at CNN

3. Aeroponics – growing plants in mist without any soil – may be the future of food.

By Bloomberg Businessweek

4. The Obama White House is still struggling to separate policy from politics, and Defense Secretary Hagel is the latest victim.

By David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy

5. Fewer, better standardized tests can boost student achievement.

By Marc Tucker, Linda Darling-Hammond and John Jackson in Education Week

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 17

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. America needs a national service year: “Citizenship is like a muscle that can atrophy from too little use; if we want to strengthen it, we need to exercise it.”

By Stan McChrystal in the Washington Post

2. It’s time to pay college athletes.

By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Jacobin

3. So-called ‘conversion therapy’ to change someone’s sexual orientation is discredited, dangerous and should be classified as torture.

By Samantha Ames in The Advocate

4. Wikipedia searches are the next frontier on monitoring and predicting disease outbreaks.

By Nicholas Generous, Geoffrey Fairchild, Alina Deshpande, Sara Y. Del Valle and Reid Priedhorsky at PLOS Computational Biology

5. Many kids lack an adult connection to spur success in school and life. A program linking them to retired adults with much to offer can solve that problem.

By Michael Eisner and Marc Freedman in the Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Kids & Money

Here’s How to Save on Tutoring for Your Kids

tutor with students
Katherine Moffitt—Getty Images

Get those slumping grades back up without spending all of your child's college fund in the process.

Junior’s report card didn’t show the letters you expected?

If that first quarter assessment was a shock, you’re probably now scrambling to figure out how to get your child back on course.

Tutoring can be a very effective way to reinforce academic lessons taught at school—but it also can be expensive. You’re typically looking at anywhere from $20 to $100 a session for one-on-one tutoring, depending on the person’s experience. Those fees can add up fast if your child requires multiple sessions.

Here are seven lower-cost options that can help boost your child’s slumping G.P.A.:

1. Start at School

Talking to your child’s teacher should be your first move.

“The teacher is a great resource for understanding what kind of tutor might be best for your child,” says Steve Pines, executive director of the Education Industry Association.

Once you know whether your child responds best to one-on-one interactions, study groups, or online programs, you can find the tutor who best matches her learning style—rather than wasting money on something that won’t stick.

The other reason to check in with the teacher: Depending on how much help your child needs, the instructor may be willing to give your child additional (free) help after school or during recess. Or, may point you toward tutoring programs offered by the school or other teachers.

Plus, he or she can point you toward additional resources—like online activities or practice assignments—that you can work with your child on at home to supplement classroom lessons.

“If you learn the material with your child, then you can become a tutoring resource yourself,” says Katie Bugbee, Care.com senior managing editor.

2. Visit the Library

Many libraries offer free online tutoring and homework help for K-12 students through partnerships with online companies like Brainfuse Online Tutoring. You may even be able to access these resources from home.

The services can be a great resource for older students who are struggling with a tricky homework assignment or who are looking for targeted help in a specific subject area.

But if your child is having problems across more than one subject area or needs help with something like reading comprehension, these programs won’t be the best fit, since it may be hard for a child to communicate the problem through online chat and likewise challenging for a tutor to explain larger concepts in this medium.

3. Try the Nonprofits

Call local nonprofits aimed at children—like YMCA and Boys & Girls Club—to see whether they offer free or low-cost academic help. Some have formed partnerships with tutoring services; others have developed their own programs.

Online nonprofits like the Learn to Be Foundation and Khan Academy also offer free education resources that can help your student, says Bugbee. The Learn to Be Foundation has tutors available almost 24-hours a day to help answer homework questions or more general concept issues. The Khan Academy doesn’t offer one-on-one help, but instead offers lesson plans, videos and brief explanations of concepts in subjects ranging from art history to algebra.

4. Call a College

Education majors need to gain experience teaching, so many universities with education departments partner with nearby libraries or public schools to offer free or reduced price tutoring services. Vassar’s education majors, for example, tutor seventh- and eighth-grade students at a nearby middle school, while Columbia University offers individual tutoring to elementary children living nearby on Saturdays.

It’s worth seeing if a college near you offers any such service.

5. Pick a Combo Caregiver

The same person in your child’s life can hold the jobs of babysitter and tutor.

When advertising for this type of position, emphasize in your job description what you’re looking for and that you’re willing to pay a little more for this extra level of service, says Bugbee. Figure on $2 to $5 more an hour on top of the average babysitter rate.

That few extra dollars an hour more will likely still end up costing you less than if you hired a separate tutor, and save you the gas and trouble of having to drive to a different location.

Plus, if the child is under the age of 13 and you hire a babysitter who is also tutoring the child, then you’re eligible for all dependent-care tax breaks.

This type of caregiver will most commonly be a college student, Bugbee says. “They have the usual after school time slot of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. open.” She recommends looking for students who are majoring in the subject your child struggles with or ones who are majoring in education.

6. Name Your Rate

One-on-one tutoring in the home is the most expensive option you have, says Pines. “That’s because this method is very customizable and convenient.”

It also tends to lead to the best results: “The more in person interaction your child can get, the better the concentration and focus on the material will be,” says Bugbee.

If you decide to go this route, you might start at a site like Wyzant.com, Care.com or Noodle Education, which all allow parents to search through tutoring candidates by subject, location, budget and preferred interaction.But rather than searching from available candidates, instead craft a specific job posting listing the qualifications you would like in a tutor and the price you are willing to pay. That way, you can keep the costs in your parameters. Only those comfortable with the price you’ve listed will apply.

Be sure to look at resumes, call references and do background checks for candidates you’re considering. Also request an initial consultation in which the person comes to meet your child, to see if their personalities mesh. “The child and tutor have got to connect to have a good learning relationship,” says Pines.

7. Find a Group

If you know your child needs ongoing help, but one-on-one sessions are not feasible, ask the parents of your child’s schoolmates if their kids are experiencing similar issues.

You may be able to hire one tutor for the group, then split the cost. While tutors will charge more for multiple students, the rate once divided could be far less then what you’d pay for one-on-one interactions.

Another way to get a group rate would be through large national companies like Kaplan, Sylvan, and Kumon. These firms offer tutoring packages that are good for students who have struggled consistently in a general area like reading comprehension.

You typically buy a number of sessions at once. Depending on the number you purchase, it could break down to be under $30 a session, with a trained and experienced tutor who will also provide resource material for the lessons. These companies also do the vetting for you, meaning you don’t have to take on the responsibility of finding a tutor and conducting a background check.

Plus, you may be able to find special pricing deals, particularly on daily deal sites like Groupon, allowing you to knock the price down further. You can bank the savings in Junior’s college fund—now, that’s A+ parenting.

TIME Education

School Accidentally Tells Parents That All 717 Students Have Gone Missing

An employee handling the school's messaging system accidentally sent an absentee note to all parents instead of a select few

A California elementary school caused a wave of panic among the parents of its 717 students after sending a text message to say that their children had gone missing.

But the group note was erroneous and accidental, and all the pupils at John Adams Elementary School in Corona were still in class, the Press Enterprise reported.

The school moved quickly to reassure frantic parents, many of whom showed up on campus.

“It was human error coupled with technology error,” said the school’s spokesperson Evita Tapia-Gonzalez, explaining that the employee handling their Blackboard Messaging system accidentally sent the note to all parents instead of a closed group.

Read more at The Press Enterprise

TIME Education

Think You Can Cheat on the SAT? The College Board Says Think Again

Security measures include air gaps, fake test takers, alarm doors, photo verification and handwriting samples

The SAT is never uploaded to the Internet. Test questions are never emailed. And even the computers that test creators use to write and edit the questions are never, ever connected to the web.

“The idea is that you can’t hack something that isn’t there,” said Ray Nicosia, the director of the Office of Testing Integrity at the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which oversees the security of the College Board’s SAT and SAT II subject area tests. Every year, those tests are administered at 25,000 test centers in 192 countries around the world.

Earlier this week, the College Board sent emails to all students living in China or Korea who had taken the SAT on October 11, informing them that their test scores would be reviewed and delayed for up to a month because of allegations of widespread cheating. It’s the latest in a long line of alleged and full-blown cheating scandals in the last few years that have involved not only the SATs, but nearly every other widely-administered standardized test, including Advance Placement tests, the ACTs, and English language qualifying exams.

“They’re always going to be people trying to challenge the system,” Nicosia said. “We stop a lot but there’s always someone trying new a way.” The advent of cell phones, tiny cameras and nearly undetectable recording devices, for example, has required his team to up their game, he said.

A quick search on YouTube reveals dozens of innovative cheating ideas, like scanning answers onto soft drink wrappers or printing formulas onto fabric, each complete with instructions on how to pull it off. One company sells an eraser that doubles as a microphone, designed to help sneaky individuals communicate with “helpers” up to 3,000 feet away.

In 2007, two students in China used tiny, wireless listening devices in their ear canals to cheat on an English exam; they were later hospitalized when the devices got stuck, according to China Daily. But, Nicosia said, those “James Bond tactics” are not as common as other, more run-of-the-mill cheating gambits. For example, in 2011, twenty students were arrested on Long Island, New York, for hiring other students—for a cool $3,600 bucks—to impersonate them in the SAT exam room.

Nicosia would not speak specifically about the allegations of cheating in the Oct. 11 test. But early speculation has focused on the possibility that the same test administered overseas on Oct. 11 had been administered previously in the U.S. ETS spokesman Thomas Ewing confirmed that ETS does reuse tests in different locations, though he would not comment on the Oct. 11 test.

Parke Muth, who volunteers as a consultant and advisor to Chinese students said he’s heard that test preparation companies will offer to pay test takers to memorize a half-dozen or so questions from a given test and write them down after they’ve left the testing area. “They do that a hundred times and they have the full test,” Muth said. He said he also heard allegations of students ripping out individual pages of a test booklet and smuggling it out of the test center.

Ewing didn’t seem too surprised by these suggestions. “The costs of test security have been steadily escalating over the years and ETS spends literally millions and millions of dollars in this area,” he said, adding that the Office of Testing Integrity, which Ray Nicosia has overseen since the mid-‘90s, has grown substantially. It now monitors every stage in the SAT and SAT II test-making and test-taking process—from the moment questions are written to the moment that students sit down to take the exam.

It’s a big job, made slightly easier by the fact that, unlike the ACT, which can now be taken on a computer in some locations, neither the SAT or the SAT II is available on any computer or digital device. Those exams must be taken instead with a good old-fashioned pencil and a paper booklet.

Still, Nicosia said, his oversight process doesn’t cut any corners. It begins in the College Board’s secure offices, which are patrolled by security guards who monitor suspicious vehicles in the area. Employees dealing directly with the test questions are required to use computers that are not, and never have been, connected to the Internet, and no part of the test, perhaps needless to say, is ever stored on the cloud. Test writers themselves are subject to background and criminal checks, and can have their briefcases and bags searched upon exiting the building to ensure that they are not transporting a thumb drive or other device containing information about the test’s content.

Once the test is written, it is moved in “a secure carrier,” Nicosia said, declining to elaborate, to a print shop that uses security protocols similar to companies that print casino vouchers, which can be exchanged for cash. “All our printers have alarm doors and security cameras and whole list of other things we mandate,” Nicosia said. “You don’t have a print shop employee just walking outside for a cigarette break.” At the end of the printing process, the SAT test booklets are “packaged in a certain way” so that tampering with the booklets themselves is either impossible or immediately obvious, he said.

From there, the test booklets are delivered to pre-vetted test administrators and school principals, who have gone thorough an ETS training and who must, in turn, provide ETS with assurance that the tests will be kept in a locked and secured location. In some instances, ETS has arranged to have the test booklets hand-delivered by a ETS employee on the day of the test.

On test day, a host of precautions are also in place. For example, ETS requires test takers to upload a photo of themselves when they register for the exam and then provide on test day a photo ID that matches both their registration photograph and their appearance. Test takers are also required to provide a handwriting sample that can be used should any subsequent investigation be necessary.

In most locations, ETS does not search students for cell phones or other digital devices, but if a proctor sees or hears a digital device, the student is immediately dismissed from the test, his scores are canceled, and a review is launched. In areas where cheating is suspected, ETS also sometimes deploys undercover investigators—employees in their late teens or early twenties who pretend to be test-takers—in order to “get the birds’ eye view of what’s going on without raising any eyebrows,” Nicosia said. At the end of tests, students are required to leave all testing materials behind.

All told, while the extent of cheating efforts is probably “extremely overblown in people’s imaginations,” Nicosia said his team takes every tip, allegation or rumor “very, very seriously.” “Whatever challenge is next, we’re looking for it,” he said.

TIME

Feel Good Friday: 14 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From biker butts to world record setting cats, here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

TIME Solutions for America

Disruptive Technology Is Changing How Kids Learn

Research show new tools can make kids more engaged and more creative

In a few weeks, the halls of a school in Nanuet, N.Y., will teem with mini race cars. The vehicles will sport custom-designed wheels, each set carefully tuned in diameter and thickness to achieve maximum speed.

But the cars’ makers aren’t college-level engineers; they’re middle-school students attempting to learn about physics and technology by using a device that combines both–the school’s 3-D printer. “It’s rewriting what’s possible” in education, says Vinny Garrison, the teacher who organizes the races.

It’s not the only innovation doing so. Nearly three-fourths of U.S. teachers use technology to motivate students to learn, according to a survey by PBS LearningMedia. And that tech is getting smarter: students can now virtually tour ancient worlds to learn history, take quizzes via smartphone and more.

Most of the changes are designed to better prepare U.S. students for careers in fast-growing fields like science and engineering. But they can come at a cost–and not just financially. A $500 million plan to supply Los Angeles students with iPads was recently suspended after students bypassed content filters and some parents complained that the initiative was pulling focus from much needed building repairs.

So far, however, research shows that using next-gen tech in the right ways can make students smarter, more engaged and more creative. Here is a look at six new technologies that are shaping the classrooms of the future.

TO SEE MORE SOLUTIONS, GO TO time.com/solutionsforamerica

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 5

1. Our nation’s racial divide starts early: America’s public schools are still highly segregated.

By Reed Jordan at the Urban Institute

2. The Pentagon is getting bad advice about responsibly managing its budget and our national defense.

By Nora Bensahel in Defense One

3. “We need to step up our game to make sure that Putin’s rules do not govern the 21st century.”

By Madeleine Albright in Foreign Policy

4. Over a lifetime, and despite the high cost of tuition, a college education is still a great deal.

By Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

5. Reality television – MTV’s “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” – triggered a plunge in the teen birthrate.

By Phil Schneider in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME

Feel Good Friday: 25 Fun Photos to Start Your Weekend

From back to school to Burning Man, here's a handful of photos to get your weekend started right

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 3

1. Russia’s power play could be the best way to reinvigorate NATO.

By John Cassidy in the New Yorker

2. Why India and Japan need each other – badly.

By Michael Schuman in Time

3. One way Congress can speed things up for the Foreign Service – appoint career ambassadors en masse.

By David Ignatius in Washington Post

4. Labor unions in decline are no longer assimilating immigrants, counteracting racial inequality or equalizing incomes.

By Justin Fox in the Harvard Business Review

5. Congress must debate and vote on our growing military involvement in Iraq.

By Mickey Edwards and David Skaggs in the Los Angeles Times

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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