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March 2, 2012 standard

As a daily magazine geared toward spurring the transformation of American public education, Dropout Nation doesn’t seek accolades or awards. Ultimately, the greatest award its editors and contributors seek is in providing every child with the teaching, curricula, and cultures of genius they need to write their own stories. At the same time, we won’t sniff at any award. And definitely not one from the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the leading advocates for expanding choice and high-quality education for African-American children.

Last night, Dropout Nation Editor RiShawn Biddle was named one of BAEO’s Ed Reform Champions Under 40, for editorializing and advocating for overhauling public education. This includes challenging the failed thinking of education traditionalists, forcing conservatives and left-leaners to rethink their ideas in his role as education columnist for The American Spectator, and helping this publication become the conscience of the school reform movement, and spotlighting how far too many children are failed each day in every community. Biddle joined a distinguished group of advocates, educators, and political leaders, including Derrell Bradford of Better Education for Kids, Wisconsin state Rep. Jason Fields, Laura McGowen-Robinson (the founder and executive director of Crown Preparatory Academy in Los Angeles), and Shekema Silveri of Mount Zion High School in Jonesboro, Ga.

It is an honor to be recognized for the work that we do here. But it cannot be forgotten that we still have so many miles to go and promises to keep to every child. And we, along with BAEO and Rocketship Education (which sponsored the award) must get going.

February 16, 2012 standard

Dear Loyal Readers:

One of the things that Dropout Nation prides itself upon is being a family-friendly site in every way. This includes ensuring that readers can visit the site without any form of trouble. But in the past few days, a hack of the site led to the installation of some nasty stuff. It has meant your editors — most-notably, I, the editor-in-chief — to spend countless hours cleaning off the site and the code the hackers baked into it. This included removing numerous images, uploading a fresh edition of the content management system that is the engine of this site, scanning every computer that comes in contact with the site’s back end, talking to the Web host, and combing through code. And a series of false starts announcing that it was all clear until the true source of the problems were clear.

The good news is that Dropout Nation is clean and ready for reading. Google and other search engines have cleared the site as well. New versions of the Podcast feeds will be up tonight. And a new site design will be unveiled on Saturday.

Until the feeds are back up, you can access all the Podcasts at the RiShawnBiddle.org radio page.

But I am mortified that this has happened. In fact, terribly disgusted with the entire situation. I believe in holding everyone to a platinum standard — and this includes yours truly. And I get thoroughly incensed when anything involving my work doesn’t reach it, outright fails the grade, and worse, may cause inconvenience in the process. Even if the cause isn’t of my own doing.

So we have taken new measures to keep the site as hack-free (and damage-free) as possible. This includes going almost all plugin-free (save for one from Blubrry, the podcast distribution service that supports the Dropout Nation Podcast), and daily inspections of all code. For the moment, this site will also go image-free (save for the podcast logos and the banners for each category) in order to ensure that nothing stands between us supporting the reform of American public education.

As anyone who has built a site using a popular content management system can attest, these problems eventually come your way. Even if you do everything, from constant software updates to backing up databases (all of which Dropout Nation does consistently) it can happen. But Dropout Nation offers no excuses because it isn’t good enough. Each and every one of you who have been readers of this site for the past few years have come to expect better from us. It is because of your patronage that this site has had impact on the lives of so many families and children.

Thank you for reading Dropout Nation. Thank you for putting up with the issues this site has had this week. Thank you for returning and continuing to read this publication. And thank you for doing the most-important work we can all do: Helping every child succeed in school and in life.

January 13, 2012 standard

Dropout Nation readers in Minnesota, especially in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-St. Cloud area, can take time to push for transforming American public education tomorrow morning, January 14, as Editor RiShawn Biddle and Dr. Richard Vedder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity headline the first annual Restoring Excellence in Education conference at St. Cloud University’s Brown Hall.

Like the rest of the nation, Minnesota is at a crossroads. The state spends $10 billion a year on education with little to show for it. One out of every four high school freshmen in Minnesota drop out by senior year, while three out of every 10 fourth graders in the state – including 36 percent of suburban fourth-graders from middle-class households – are functionally illiterate, according to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Meanwhile higher education in Minnesota is also in need of an overhaul.

The Restoring Excellence in Education Conference is an opportunity to develop and share ideas and reform concepts that will bring high quality to our K-12 schools and universities. It features your editor, who will focus on getting parents engaged at all levels of education; and Dr. Vedder, who will talk the inconvenient truths about the nation’s higher education systems.

Also speaking at the event is former Minnesota State Representative Allen Quist, Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Bethany Lutheran College and the author of five books on education. He will participate in a panel on reforming K-12 education that will be chaired by State. Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud), chairman of the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Reform Committee, and will feature state representatives Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) and Pam Myrha (R-Burnsville). And Rep. King Banaian (R-St. Cloud) will moderate a panel on higher education.

Learn more about the event at minnesotaeducationreform.com. Visit http://www.stcloudstate.edu/campusmap/building.asp?bldgAbbr=BH) for directions to the venue.  And come ready to help give our kids schools fit for their futures.

January 5, 2012 standard

Dropout Nation readers in Minnesota, especially in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-St. Cloud area, can take time to push for transforming American public education on Saturday, January 14, as Editor RiShawn Biddle and Dr. Richard Vedder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity headline the first annual Restoring Excellence in Education conference at St. Cloud University’s Brown Hall.

Like the rest of the nation, Minnesota is at a crossroads. The state spends $10 billion a year on education with little to show for it. One out of every four high school freshmen in Minnesota drop out by senior year, while three out of every 10 fourth graders in the state – including 36 percent of suburban fourth-graders from middle-class households – are functionally illiterate, according to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Meanwhile higher education in Minnesota is also in need of an overhaul.

The Restoring Excellence in Education Conference is an opportunity to develop and share ideas and reform concepts that will bring high quality to our K-12 schools and universities. It features your editor, who will focus on getting parents engaged at all levels of education; and Dr. Vedder, who will talk the inconvenient truths about the nation’s higher education systems.

Also speaking at the event is former Minnesota State Representative Allen Quist, Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Bethany Lutheran College and the author of five books on education. He will participate in a panel on reforming K-12 education that will be chaired by State. Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud), chairman of the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Reform Committee, and will feature state representatives Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) and Pam Myrha (R-Burnsville). And Rep. King Banaian (R-St. Cloud) will moderate a panel on higher education.

Learn more about the event at minnesotaeducationreform.com. Visit http://www.stcloudstate.edu/campusmap/building.asp?bldgAbbr=BH) for directions to the venue.  And come ready to help give our kids schools fit for their futures.

December 31, 2011 standard

On behalf of Dropout Nation, its contributors and contributing editors, I thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, and spreading the word about this magazine and its mission of transforming American public education for all of our kids. And we thank God for blessing us with opportunities to shed light on the nation’s education crisis, and for stirring discussion about solutions for givng our kids schools fit for their futures.

I always say and write this, but we must always keep in mind that what we do is not — and should never be — for personal glory. Certainly it is always wonderful to receive praise and attention for what we do. But this isn’t about us; after all, each of us has already been (and continues to be) provided with so much from our Creator. What we must all do now is be a blessing to others, especially children who deserve to get the education they need to open doors to wonderful futures. Each day that a young man or woman drops out, it is an unavoidable tragedy. We must do so much more to be blessings to all of our kids.

As readers, you are responsible for Dropout Nation’s success. And God, along with your concern for all kids, is what brought you to these pages. As your editor, I look forward to helping each and every one of you do the most-important thing we can do in our lives: Give kids brighter futures. And we will keep our promise to you: Serve as your eyes on the reform of American public education; speak truth to influence;  be the conscience of a movement.

Once again, Dropout Nation look forward to your thoughts and your energy in the New Year — and our kids need your energy (and ours) too. Let’s keep our commitment to giving all kids the opportunity to write their own stories. As Robert Frost would say, we have miles to go and promises to keep to all of our children, everywhere they are.

Thank you. And Happy New Year!

August 4, 2011 standard

As you may know by now, dear readers, there’s been a little extra traffic coming. Thanks to everyone who is reading and working to lead a revolution, not an evolution, in American public education.