Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin

  • School district must pay millions in back pay to foreign teachers


    The Department of Labor says Maryland's Prince George's County school district owes $4.2 million in back wages to 1,000 foreign teachers, many of whom paid hefty recruiting fees in their home countries to be able to travel to the United States and land the jobs. The district also must pay a $1.7 million fine for breaking the law, the Labor Department says.

    The law says the school district cannot employ workers with H1-B temporary visas if they pay the foreign teachers less than they do American ones. The recruiting and immigration legal fees paid by the teachers--most of whom are from the Philippines--reduces their total compensation to less than American teachers' and thus breaks the law, the Department found. The county said they won't renew the visas for "non-critical" teachers because of budget cuts this year, according to the Manila Bulletin.

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  • NYC schools chief steps down


    Cathie Black, the leader of the country's largest school system, is stepping down just a few months after being appointed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the mayor announced today.

    She will be replaced by Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott. The news was first broken by NY1.

    Black was dogged by criticism over her lack of experience in the education world, and thousands of people signed a petition seeking to block her appointment in November. She was displaced as president of Hearst magazines before she was tapped for the job, and Bloomberg said she would bring her business acumen to New York's schools.

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  • Another air traffic controller fell asleep on the job

    3462-000064 (1)Well this is worrisome. The Federal Aviation Administration announced it is seeking to fire a second air traffic controller who was found asleep on the job. The action comes a couple of weeks after two jets were forced to land on their own at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport when the tower's sole controller fell asleep.

    The controller in this episode was found "intentionally" sleeping, the FAA said. He made a bed on the floor for himself with a blanket and cushions on a Feb. 19 nightshift in a Knoxville, Tennessee airport. Another controller was forced to pick up his slack, handling seven flights alone after pilots received radio silence from the first controller, ABC News reports.

    A 2009 GQ feature on New York's LaGuardia airport control tower said a shrinking workforce and lower pay has left controllers exhausted and demoralized, and our skies less safe.

    (Stock image: Getty)

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  • FIRST LOOK: Still no deal on the federal budget

    Welcome to First Look, our daily roundup of early-bird news.

    • The congressional stalemate over the federal budget continues after a late-night meeting with Obama. (New York Times)

    • A budget shutdown would have a significant negative effect on the economy. (Washington Post)

    • Radio Shack stores in Idaho and Montana are offering free guns to people who sign up for satellite TV. (Reuters)

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  • Latino leaders pressure Obama over deportations


    President Obama is facing heated criticism from Latino leaders and opinion-makers over his administration's aggressive use of deportation as a tool of immigration enforcement. But Obama appears to be fully committed to maintaining a policy that has achieved a record level of deportations, telling a town hall last week it would not be "appropriate" for him to intervene to slow down pending deportation proceedings.

    Dozens of grassroots immigrant rights groups are starting a campaign called "Change Takes Courage" to prod Obama to rethink his position and stop the deportation of immigrants who entered illegally or who have expired visas but have committed no other crime. (To enter the country illegally is a misdemeanor, but overstaying a visa is not a criminal offense.)

    The coalition says that Obama should defer deportation orders for young students whose parents brought them into the United States as children and would have been legalized by the DREAM Act if they joined the military or graduated college. The DREAM Act legislation  failed in the Senate in December, with Republican lawmakers arguing that it amounted to "amnesty" and would encourage illegal immigration.

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  • Honeymooning couple survives six(!) natural disasters


    Oh, what a marriage can survive. A Swedish newlywed couple tested theirs sooner than most--when they experienced no fewer than six natural disasters while honeymooning.

    Stefan and Erika Svanstrom, who have a remarkably positive attitude about their four-month ordeal, brought their infant daughter with them on what they'd hoped would be a globetrotting adventure to celebrate their marriage. Instead, the pair encountered a monster snowstorm, a major tsunami, two earthquakes, catastrophic flooding, and a cyclone as they made their way through the doomed itinerary of Germany, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

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  • Do K-12 online courses cut corners?


    The New York Times' Trip Gabriel has weighed in on the debate about the increase in mandatory online classes in the nation's public school system.

    The Lookout wrote in January that there's no evidence that online-only courses are comparable to face-to-face instruction for K-12 students, even as superintendents in Idaho and Tennessee push to make them mandatory for high school students. Teachers' union officials argue the classes--which a million public school students took in 2008--are about cutting costs, not improving education.

    Gabriel's article focuses on online courses in the Memphis school district, where he watches a student copy-and-paste from Wikipedia to answer a question in his online-only English 3 course, which he had failed in a teacher-led classroom. Gabriel writes that online makeup courses for students who failed in brick-and-mortar classes are the fastest growing segment of online learning. Critics, Gabriel writes, think high schools may be shuffling kids into these less-rigorous online makeup classes to boost their graduation rates:

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  • FIRST LOOK: Japan says it’s plugged radioactive leak

    Welcome to First Look, our daily roundup of early-bird news.

    • What happens if the government really does shut down? (Yahoo! News)

    • A 24-year-old pilot joked through a landing on a New York beach, enraging air traffic controllers. (New York Times)

    • Japan says that safety workers have closed up a radioactive water leak in the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. (CNN)

    • But a U.S. report says the plant is far from stable. (ABC News)

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  • Condé Nast falls for $8 million email scam

    AP070123055470Little old ladies just merging onto the information superhighway aren't the only ones falling victim to email hoaxes. The venerable publishing house Condé Nast fell for a $8 million scam after just one e-mail, according to a complaint [PDF] filed in a Manhattan court March 30.

    The complaint explains that Condé Nast received an invoice from the email account of Quad Graph, which sounds a lot like the magazine giant's printer, Quad/Graphics. The form told the company to direct future payments to the Quad Graph account. So Condé Nast filled it out and wired over $7,870,530.02 and $47,137.91 in November and December, respectively.

    It wasn't until late last December that Condé Nast--which publishes The New Yorker, Vogue, GQ, and many other titles--was contacted by their actual printer, Quad/Graphics, who asked why they hadn't received any payments since November. Condé Nast then alerted authorities of a suspected scam.

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  • Rhee admits to limited testing irregularities


    The nation's leading spokeswoman for education reform Michelle Rhee is lashing out against a USA Today investigation that found unusually high erasure rates, from wrong answers to right ones, in some of her students' standardized tests. In one D.C. school under Rhee's purview, Noyes Elementary, the wrong-to-right swaps were so extensive that "the odds of winning the Powerball grand prize were better than the erasures occurring by chance," according to the newspaper.

    Rhee, the chancellor of D.C.'s school system until last year, rewarded the principal of Noyes with a bonus for improving the scores. She now says she welcomes the District of Columbia Board of Education's call for their own investigation into the erasures.

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