Three things to read this weekend

Looking for things to add to your weekend reading list? We’ve got you covered – here are our top picks from the week’s reading:

Why Are So Many College Students Turning Down Free Money? (The Atlantic): The quick answer? The paperwork headache of the financial aid process combined with widespread financial illiteracy. The FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid – is time-consuming and laborious to complete: the USDOE itself estimates that it could take almost two hours to complete, while other estimates put it closer to 10 hours. That’s a pretty big obstacle in and of itself, but when you add to that the fact that a lot of students and families just don’t understand how federal financial aid works – they don’t think they’re eligible, or they think it’s all loans not grants – and you wind up with this staggering statistic: Less than half of last year’s high-school graduates completed the FAFSA, according to NerdWallet. And how much money did they leave on the table? Nearly $3 billion, also according to NerdWallet. That’s a lot of money.

‘The Good Teachers Are Starting to Leave’ (The Washington Post): This blog post features a letter from Georgia teacher Susan B. Barber to the new Georgia State School Superintendent detailing how the increasing emphasis on standardized testing has affected her and her students. Barber wrote that she supports some testing as a way to hold schools accountable for student learning and teacher instruction, but believes the pendulum has swung too far to one side. Wherever you sit on the issue of testing, this letter is a really interesting window into how the issue is playing out in one Georgia High School and into the opportunity costs, as perceived by Barber, of increasing the number of standardized tests students take.

#CommonCore: How Social Media is Changing the Politics of Education: This project by researchers from UPenn, UC San Diego and UNEC (Madrid, Spain) to document and examine how the Common Core debate has played out on Twitter is getting a lot of attention this week. I’ll admit upfront that I’m not done exploring the site, but what I have read so far is really fascinating (and awe-inspiring in its scope). The authors examined tweets from 53,000 distinct Twitter actors over the course to six months to document how Twitter has changed the way conversations about this type of public policy issue play out. One of the most interesting (to me) patterns the research uncovered was that the Common Core was often explained in metaphors – but those metaphors don’t always accurately describe what the writer meant. As that metaphor is repeated through retweets, it can be become the dominant narrative instead of what the author intended as the message. It’s like a massive, sprawling, electronic game of telephone. Whether you agree with this research or not, I think the site is worth exploring.