(CNN Student News) -- September 8, 2009
Address to Students - Learn why a presidential address on education is raising controversy.
Great White Surprise - Find out why some people seek out encounters with great white sharks.
Goodbye Summer Break? - Consider the pros and cons of schools that stay in session year-round.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Hi! Welcome to CNN Student News! We hope you enjoyed the Labor Day holiday, and that you're all doing well. I'm Carl Azuz, kicking things off on this Tuesday, September 8th.
AZUZ: First up today, anticipation over a pair of high profile speeches from President Obama this week. Tomorrow night, he's going to be talking to Congress about health care. But today, the president's focus is on education, and he's talking about it to you! He's making a back-to-school broadcast online directly to students. But the speech has raised some controversy for a couple reasons. First, some people are concerned about the president talking about political issues in public schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the speech isn't about politics, and he's pointed out that it's not unusual for presidents to address students. But another concern was about some lesson plans the Education Department created to go along with the speech. Critics felt that part of the original plans were focused more on how the students can help the president rather than how they can help themselves. Those plans have since been revised. But Nicole Collins has more on the debate over the president's address.
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KHOU RADIO CALLER: My rights as a parent are being circumvented.
NICOLE COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Obama's planned speech to the nation's school children sparked anger among some parents who worry the remarks are more about politics than education.
SHANNEEN BARRON, PARENT: Thinking about my kids in school having to listen to that just really upsets me.
COLLINS: But Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the controversy is "silly," and that the speech is meant to encourage kids to set goals and have a strong work ethic.
ARNE DUNCAN, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: The president's whole speech is about asking students to take personal responsibility for their education, really challenge them to work hard every day.
COLLINS: Duncan cites a 30 percent high school dropout rate in the United States as further motivation to reach out to the nation's students.
DUNCAN: We have a dropout rate that's unacceptable, and having the president challenge the nation's youth is a positive thing.
COLLINS: Minnesota's Republican Governor, Tim Pawlenty, says he's concerned about the speech being "disruptive to the school day," and about it being done in an appropriate manner.
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, (R) MINNESOTA: I trust and hope the White House will have a content that is not political and not using the public school infrastructure for that purpose.
COLLINS: The president's speech will air online on Tuesday; the education secretary says watching it is voluntary. School districts in a number of states have decided not to air it in their schools.
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AZUZ: Alright. One thing we love to do on CNN Student News is to send you to our blog. You've heard both sides of this. What do you think? Are you planning to watch the president's speech? Does it matter that he's specifically addressing students, or does it seem like just another speech to you ? And what kind of impact do you think it'll have, if any? We'd love for you to weigh in with your thoughts -- and only your first names -- at our blog. You can find it at CNNStudentNews.com.
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: See if you can I.D. Me! I'm a type of fish whose skeleton is mostly made up of cartilage. If I don't swim constantly, I'll sink. Some of my 400-plus species include the whale, basking and lemon. I'm a shark, and I've been around for hundreds of millions of years!
AZUZ: Whether you're swimming, surfing, fishing. when you go out in the ocean, one thing you don't usually want to see is a shark. But while many folks fear the infamous fish, the reality is that, in the U.S., less than one person per year dies in a shark attack on average. Jason Carroll reports on the people who go into the ocean actually looking for these creatures.
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JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some species of sharks are common in the Cape waters off the coast of Massachusetts. But despite what you may have seen in the movies, great white sharks are relatively rare in New England. So, imagine the surprise of researchers who spotted not one but two, and were able to tag the giant predators near Chatham Beach. They estimate each one weighed a thousand pounds! This is the first time two great whites have been tagged in the Atlantic. It all happened on Saturday when researchers and local fishermen made a little history at sea.
BILL CHAPRALES, TAGGED GREAT WHITE SHARK: As soon as the shark does come to the surface, I raise the harpoon and get ready to take aim. And as soon as he gets within range, I just throw the pole into the fish. That puts the tag into the fish, and as soon as it hits him, he takes right off and the tag is in place.
GREG SKOMAL, SHARK SPECIALIST, MASS. INSTITUTE OF MARINE FISHERIES: I've tried to find white sharks over the past 27 years. I can't find em'. And that's a lot of time, a lot of commitment, and one day boom, two animals. That kinda puts it in perspective.
CARROLL: The great whites were tagged with high tech devices programmed to stay on the sharks until January 15th. Then the devices should pop off, float to the surface, and transmit data via satellite back to the researchers. Scientists hope the information will help them learn more about the sharks' migratory patterns, and will lead to better conservation efforts. Also an important note: several beaches in the area have been closed. And state officials are warning swimmers to be on the lookout for sharks. Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.
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Bay Bridge Repairs
AZUZ: Moving along now to America's other coast, authorities have been working on a "significant crack" on a major bridge. The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge had been closed since Thursday for improvements. Workers were making it safer in case of an earthquake. In fact, part of this bridge actually collapsed ten years ago when a quake struck. The crack was found over the weekend, and last night, officials were doing all they could to get this thing repaired ASAP. That is because about 280,000 vehicles roll across the bridge every day.
Is This Legit?
JONES: Is this legit? The federal government sets the calendar for U.S. public schools. Not legit! Public school calendars are set by individual states and districts.
AZUZ: And that explains why some of you are just starting back today, while others have been in school and with our show for a couple weeks now . It's why some schools -- about 3,000 around the U.S. -- can stay in session all year long. It's an idea that's gaining popularity. But as Kate Bolduan explainsm and as you might hear around your class, not everyone thinks this idea deserves an "A."
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KATE BOLDUAN, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON, D.C.: While most students were off enjoying summer vacation, schools like Barcroft Elementary in Arlington, Virginia were open and bustling with activity.
MIRIAM HUGHEY-GUY, PRINCIPAL, BARCROFT ELEMENTARY: Well, we would like to think about our calendar as being the 21st century calendar.
BOLDUAN: Instead of a long summer break, Barcroft keeps students in class year-round with shorter breaks throughout, offering about 20 additional school days.
HUGHEY-GUY: It gives them learning experiences that they might not be able to get over the summertime.
BOLDUAN: It's a strategy school districts across the country are experimenting with. Perhaps the most closely watched in Massachusetts, which has extended class time for 22 of its low-performing schools. The idea has even won the endorsement of both President Obama and his education chief.
DUNCAN: We have a significantly shorter school year: 20, 25, 30 days versus India, versus China, other places. Our students are at a competitive disadvantage.
BOLDUAN: The major argument for extending school time is summer learning loss. Researchers have found students can lose about a month's worth of achievement during the summer break.
ELENA SILVA, SENIOR POLICY ANALYST, EDUCATION SECTOR: It's particularly true for low income kids who don't have the opportunities that other kids have during those big breaks.
BOLDUAN: But more time is no silver bullet for reform. Miami-Dade County Schools in Florida used an extended day program for three years, but dropped it because they didn't see improvement in test scores. Critics say it disrupts family life and is expensive. The Miami-Dade program cost more than $100 million.
MARTA PEREZ, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: The teachers were fatigued at the end of the day. The students were fatigued and unmotivated.
BOLDUAN: Which is another criticism: It's not just time, but the quality of the extra time that matters.
SILVA: One of the risks, of course, is that you end up extending time in school that aren't working well and that's, I think goes without saying that no one wants to extend bad time.
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Four-Day School Week
AZUZ: So, year-round school is one idea. What about the opposite: less time in school? That's what a lot of districts are doing, canceling one day of classes and moving to a four-day school week. The reason behind this? Money. For example, schools in Georgia's Peach County needed to cut $800,000. Switching to a four-day week will save about half of that. Less school might sound great to you, but not to everyone. It means parents will have to figure out where their kids will go on the day they're not in school. And remember in that last report, the idea of learning loss when you're not in class? It's the same concern around the four-day week.
Before We Go
AZUZ: Well, finally today, we'd like you to unleash your inner-geek. This is something we should all be concerned about: alien invasion! It happened in Atlanta this weekend when DragonCon rolled into town and brought some creative costumes with it. The sci-fi and comic convention always has an interesting cast of characters: Interplanetary predators? Yep. Old-school robots? Uh-huh. People willing to paint their face blue for no apparent reason? Got that too. Even a Sith lord couldn't stay away!
AZUZ: We had some ideas for Darth Vader puns, but we didn't want to force anything. Wookie here, we've reached the end of today's show. We will be back again tomorrow. We'll see you then.