American Morning

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May 30th, 2011
01:04 PM ET

Perry's Principles: Preview of "Education Makeover" special

When it comes to making sure our kids get a good education, many parents might feel like it's a full-time job.

CNN Education contributor Steve Perry spent time with a family whose 14-year-old son was in danger of failing the 9th grade. He recounts his experience in a CNN special called "Education Makeover with Principal Steve Perry" which airs Saturday, June 4th at 2:30pm Eastern time.

Perry joins American Morning this morning to talk with Alina Cho about the series.

December 30th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Educating America: Cheating on papers is a booming Web business

By Bob Ruff and Carol Costello

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Online sites known as paper mills offer students term papers, reports, or essays – for a fee."]

Outsourcing is a dirty little word among many Americans. When companies use cheap labor overseas to make products or perform services it often means those jobs are lost in the United States.

Next up on the outsourcing list? Take a deep breath and read on. America is outsourcing its brains.

According to the Center for Academic Integrity, in the last school year nearly a third of the faculty at its 360 college and high school member institutions reported students downloading term papers, reports or essays written by someone else from online sites known as paper mills.

We counted more than 250 sites selling papers online, so CNN'S Carol Costello went online to buy a term paper from one of them. She asked for a "Premium Quality" paper on Jayson Blair, the former reporter fired by the New York Times for making up stories. Three, double-spaced pages with 5 references (the references added to the cost), totaled $80.97.

The company said it would take a few days.

Watch: Students outsource homework Video

Costello talked to one writer from an Asian country, who wished to remain anonymous. He says, based on his experience, more than 90% of online term paper buying comes from the United States. "There's a huge demand for academic papers in the United States," he told her. "It's unethical, but you know I come from a Third World country. It's good pay. The temptation was really great."

Much of the time it's an English speaking writer from another country who is writing those term papers. DomainTools tracks Internet traffic to Web sites by nation. is one of the most established sites soliciting writers to write these papers. DomainTools says most of the visitors to are non-Americans.


Filed under: Educating America • Education
December 29th, 2009
06:30 AM ET

Educating America: The big business of the SAT

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The College Board says all revenues from its products are reinvested into improved or additional services that support its mission."]

By Carol Costello and Bob Ruff

During the 1950s, "What's My Line" was a popular television show featuring celebrity panelists trying to guess the occupation or identity of a real person. The panelists were given a hint and then asked the person a series of questions.

Imagine this. Had the panelists been asked to guess the name of an American organization based on the following hints, how many would have guessed correctly? And how many would have guessed that it's a nonprofit organization?

  • Its business is education.
  • Its president makes roughly $900,000 in salary, benefits, and perks.
  • 12 of its executives make more than $300,000 in salary and benefits.
  • Total yearly revenues hover near $600 million.
  • Students are its main consumers and it charges them $45 each time they use the featured product.
  • If a student wants the product faster, he gets charged more.
  • If a student wants detailed information on the product, he gets charged more.
  • And if if the student wants to buy by phone, that's extra too.

If you've followed our "American Morning" series this week you may have already guessed that we're talking about the College Board, which owns the SAT – a test required for entry into the nation's most competitive colleges. Critics say that that with its highly-paid executives and big business outlook, the College Board doesn't look or act very much like a nonprofit educational institution that earns tax benefits from the IRS.

Watch: SAT's big business Video

Fairtest is a consumer watchdog group that opposes most standardized tests. It has criticized the SAT as a test that isn't fair to students who can't afford college prep classes designed to "beat" the test. The group also says the College Board is placing more emphasis on making money than fulfilling its mission – to connect students "to college success and opportunity with a commitment to equity and access."


Filed under: Educating America • Education
December 28th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Educating America: Scrap the SAT?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Critics of the SAT say it penalizes minorities because the test itself is stacked against lower income children, who are unable to pay for test preparation programs."]

By Carol Costello and Bob Ruff

What on Earth would motivate six teenagers to spend their summer vacation locked in a tiny, nondescript room with a teacher endlessly going over vocabulary words and math problems that require the use of the Pythagorean Theorem?

(A) Their parents sent them to summer school.
(B) Angst.
(C) They like studying in the summer.
(D) They’re cramming for the SAT exam.

If you answered (B) and (D), you’d be right.

For decades, taking the SAT has stood as the sine qua non for entry into the vast majority of American colleges and universities. Taking the test continues to strike fear into high school students, especially as the date of their SAT exam approaches.

Watch: Bye, Bye SATs Video

The teenagers we visited had this to say:

McKenna Baskett, St. Louis, Missouri: “I’m so nervous! ... I’m a really bad test taker and they’re really hard questions, so I just hope I can get through it.”

Pratick Parija, Jersey City, NJ: “The test is long. ... And you have to complete it and think through, so that’s what scares me a little.”

Jason Huang of New York City was philosophical: “You can’t be nervous for everything. That’s just [a] life lesson. You just got to take it, deal with it.”

McKenna, Pratick, and Jason are just a few of the many high school students taking an SAT preparation course from the Princeton Review, one of several companies offering courses throughout the nation. This one costs a little more than $600. But wealthy students, or at least their parents, are coughing up more than $7,000 for intense private tutoring so that their child can get into the just the right college.

Critics of the SAT say that all this angst is pointless. Fairtest, a nonprofit group that says it supports “fair and open testing,” believes that the SAT is biased and doesn’t do a good job of predicting college success.

What do you think? Scrap the SAT? Send us your comments.


Filed under: Educating America • Education
September 4th, 2009
09:20 AM ET
September 3rd, 2009
07:13 AM ET

Educating America: Sex ed is back

By Carol Costello and Ronni Berke

Since President Obama cut federal funding for the “abstinence-only” sex education program, many schools across the country are implementing more comprehensive sex education classes. North Carolina is one of them.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The teen pregnancy rate in North Carolina rose more than 12 percent from 2003 to 2007, according to the state's health department figures."]

Since 1996, North Carolina law required teachers to tell teenagers they were “expected” to abstain from “sexual activity outside of marriage.” However, the law did not have the lasting effect on teenagers officials had hoped.

“They've gotten pregnant more often. Imagine that,” says Gaston County Health Director Colleen Bridger. “Our STD rates are going up. Our pregnancy rates are going up.”

According to North Carolina Health Department figures, from 2003 to 2007 the teenage pregnancy rate rose more than 12 percent. North Carolina now has the ninth highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.

CNN spoke to some students who lobbied lawmakers for a change in the law to allow teachers to tell high school students about contraception – because of their experiences in "abstinence only” classes in high school.

Watch: NC sex ed is back Video

“People were raising their hands and asking really interesting questions and she wasn't able to answer them just because the curriculum told her you know you only can talk about this and this but you know not this and this and this,” recounts Eli MacDonald, 16.

Gabriella Magallanes, 19, remembers her teacher telling the class to "wait to have sex until you get married," and that "condoms won’t work." If you have sex, "you're going to get an STD and die.” Magallanes adds: “When kids hear that, they shut their ears off, they just stop listening.”


Filed under: Educating America • Education
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