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Can Putting 857 Desks on the National Mall Get Education on the Election Agenda?

The installation by the "Don't Forget About Ed!" campaign urges President Obama and Mitt Romney to get serious about education.


Can lining 857 student desks up on the National Mall in Washington D.C. get our presidential candidates to make education central to their campaigns? That was the goal of an attention-getting art installation put in place on Tuesday and Wednesday this week by the College Board as part of the kickoff of their nonpartisan "Don't Forget Ed!" campaign. According to their calculations, the desks represent the number of students who drop out of school every hour of every school day.

Despite the large numbers of dropouts, "every four years, the issue of education is shockingly underplayed on the campaign trail," says College Board president Gaston Caperton. Indeed, while there's certainly been plenty of political theater over student loan interest rates, when it comes to really addressing education, this election season is playing out pretty much like every other—candidates speak in broad terms about the issue. The irony is, given all the focus on fixing the economy, it makes sense for the candidates to place education front and center.

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Ninety-Seven-Year-Old Grandmother Finally Graduates From High School

Ann Colagiovanni left school at age 17 to help out her family but always wanted to finish her education. Now she has, in a way.

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Nearly a million students drop out of high school every year and many make the decision because they're under pressure to get a job and help their families out. That's what happened back during the Depression when 17-year-old Ann Colagiovanni left school to go work in her dad's grocery store. But Colagiovanni always wanted to finish her education. Now she has, in a way. Last week her Shaker Heights, Ohio high school awarded the now 97-year-old with an honorary diploma.

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Cutting the Higher Education Graduation Gap in Half

Getting "super-seniors" to finish and ensuring that incoming freshmen graduate has to be a central focus of the nation's colleges.


Figuring out how to say goodbye to our college students may seem counterintuitive when it’s only December, but with shrinking resources and a growing demand for graduates to fill high-skill jobs, colleges can no longer afford "super-seniors"—students with a surplus of credit hours in the wrong combination to graduate. And we can no longer afford students who drop out after their first year.

In my 11-plus years as president of California State University at Northridge, I've given a lot of thought to life transitions and tendencies to cling to what’s comfortable. Nudging super-seniors to finish and ensuring that incoming freshmen persist to graduation is a central focus at our university. If that’s not our end game, we are failing students and higher education’s role in our nation’s competitiveness.

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The "Most Advanced High School" in the United States to Be Demolished

Chicago's South Shore High to set to meet the wrecking ball. The decision is stirring racial and class-based controversy in the community.

A Chicago high school labeled in 1969 as the "most advanced high school in the United States" is slated to meet a demolition crew this year.

South Shore High School's crumbling buildings and less than stellar student achievement results—the dropout rate hovers around 52 percent—contributed to the decision to destroy the campus. But a proposal to build a new campus in the school's place is bringing up racial and socioeconomic tensions reminiscent of the issues that surrounded the school's construction more than 40 years ago.

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