Guns For Teachers, SAT Revamps, and Other Changes To U.S. Education Worth Knowing About

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From budget cuts to gun violence to an increasingly competitive global economy, the U.S. education system has some pretty big challenges to face this year. Now's as good a time as any to take a look at some of the problems piling up, and the strategies some schools and institutions are taking on to solve them.

A Tough Year for Schools

From budget cuts to gun violence to an increasingly competitive global economy, the U.S. education system has some pretty big challenges to face this year. Now's as good a time as any to take a look at some of the problems piling up, and the strategies some schools and institutions are taking on to solve them.

Test scores are dropping... But only because the bar has been raised

States around the country are beginning to experiment with a new, more difficult set of testing standards called the Common Core, which focus more on analytical writing and reasoning skills than on multiple choice questions. New York families were alarmed Wednesday to learn that under these new statewide testing standards only 26 percent of students from third to eighth grade passed English, and only 30 percent passed the math exams — compared to the 47 percent who passed in English last year and 60 percent who passed math.

Some New Yorkers see the drop in test scores as proof that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is wrong about improvement to education supposedly made under his tenure. The mayor was strangely cheery when commenting on the new scores, however, calling them "very good news, even though people haven't written it that way yet."

The SATs and the ACTs are getting hipper

The days of lachrymose high schoolers cramming their brains with abstruse sets of SAT vocabulary may be coming to an end. With pioneering new president David Coleman at the helm, the College Board has announced a massive new redesign meant to update the test material to include more practical knowledge. Coleman also hopes to reform the essay section, which currently allows students to declare Harry Potter the first President of the United States if they so please, as long as they argue their point clearly. The proposed changes will go into effect in 2015.

The ACT, meanwhile, is preparing to introduce a new digital version of their test, and eventually phase out the dreaded bubble-in columns.

Teen Pregnancy Rates Drop Thanks Expanded Sex Ed

Well, there's a shocker. Teen pregnancy rates have been dropping nationwide, and the change has been widely attributed to some schools' increasing willingness to provide birth control and teach sex education. The California Department of Public Health is reporting a 60 percent drop in teen pregnancy since since 1991 thanks to the state's expanded sex education program. Still, some states clearly remain that could stand to learn from California's example.

Online Education Has Reached the K-12 Market

With major cuts to public school budgets around the country, for-profit online education companies have been cropping up to scoop up the overflow from the classroom. As if the idea of depriving kids of the social aspect of a school environment isn't bad enough, the test scores of students in virtual classes have also proven to be pretty dismal.

Arkansas Schools Are Considering Arming Their Teachers

After the Sandy Hook school shooting rattled the nation this winter, debate broke out over what the best solution is to fix the problem of gun violence in schools. We're pretty sure that putting more guns in schools isn't that solution, but one Arkansas school district feels differently.

They've proposed deputizing the district's teachers with a two-day training course that will prepare them to protect their classrooms using guns. Arkansas Attorney General is doing everything he can to prevent the plan from going forward, but the final legal decision has yet to be made.