Class Notes: Failing Schools, Free Tuition and More Education News

Each week, TIME's Kayla Webley fills you in on the goings on in the education world, everything from pre-K to higher ed.

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Claremont McKenna College Admits to Reporting Exaggerated SAT Scores
The ninth best liberal arts college in the nation has admitted to inflating scores on the SAT in order to boost its status. In an email sent to the staff members and students of the small, prestigious California school, and obtained by The New York Times, Claremont McKenna College President Pamela Gann said a senior administration official had taken sole responsibility for the falsified scores, and had admitted to altering the scores since 2005. Read more here.

Harvard, Princeton Being Investigated for Discrimination
Bloomberg has this exclusive on a Department of Education probe into complaints that Harvard University and Princeton University discriminate against Asian-American students in undergrad admissions. According to Bloomberg, the department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is investigating a charge that an Asian-American student was denied admission to Harvard on the basis of his or her race. OCR is also looking to a similar complaint at Princeton. Both complaints were filed in August 2011. Read the full story here.

Administration Urges Digital Textbook Adoption
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, along with Federal Communication Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, challenged schools to embrace digital textbooks within five years, according to the Associated Press. The administration’s push comes two weeks after Apple unveiled new digital textbooks for the iPad. But while the benefits of digital textbooks are clear (and Apple’s version is undeniably cool), unless the administration is willing to put forth some serious funding or Apple is willing to reduce iPad prices for schools (neither of which have happened yet) it’s unclear how many schools will be able to afford to embrace the reinvented textbooks. Read more here.

Vassar Error Causes Students to Be Mistakenly Accepted
A computer error in Vassar College’s online admissions system caused 76 students to believe they had been accepted by the prestigious liberal arts school when, in fact, they had been rejected. Apparently when the school’s website went live last Friday, it still featured a form acceptance letter the university had used when testing the site, not the personalized decisions for individual students. As a consolation for the mistakenly accepted students, Vassar is giving them back the $65 application fee. Read more here. (And, find out why your safety school might actually be the smarter choice here.)

Number of the Week: $18 Million
The amount of money given by the GE Foundation to help implement the Common Core standards nationwide. (The Common Core is a set of standards for what students are expected to learn in the course of a K-12 education that have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. Learn more here.)

When Charter Schools Fail, What Happens to the Kids?
This story from The Hechinger Report is the first in TIME’s partnership with the nonprofit news organization that focuses on producing in-depth education journalism. In this story, Sarah Butrymowicz reports on states that are cracking down on ineffective charter programs and explores what can happen when well-meaning educational programs wind up hurting the students they are trying to help. Read the full story here.

What If You Could Attend College for Free?
In my column this week for TIME Moneyland, I discuss an idea a group of students from the University of California-Riverside is proposing as a way to make college more affordable. Instead of raising tuition, Fix UC suggests getting rid of it altogether. Under the proposal, in-state students would pay nothing upfront to attend any University of California campus. But upon gaining employment after graduation, they would be required to pay back 5% of their income for 20 years. Read more here.

Obama Wants to Lower Tuition, But At What Cost?
Speaking of college affordability, last week President Obama “put colleges and universities on notice.” Find a way to stop tuition from going up, he told them, or risk losing federal aid money. Following up on that charge, Obama put forward a proposal that, if passed, would shift federal funding away from those colleges that fail to keep tuition down in favor of institutions that “do their fair share” to keep tuition affordable. Incentivizing colleges to lower tuition sounds like a great thing on its face, but some higher-ed experts fear the plan would force colleges to trade quality for price. Read my column for TIME’s politics site here.

And, Just for Fun: Ryan Gosling Meets Education
The Ryan Gosling ‘Hey Girl’ meme has met education in this Tumblr, Hey Girl Teacher. In it, “Gosling” encourages hard-working teachers everywhere with lines like, “Hey girl, in addition to everything else, you submitted attendance on time? Wow, I don’t know how you do it.” My personal favorite: “Hey girl, I saw you at that conference… getting all professionally developed.” Check it out here.

Kayla Webley is a Staff Writer at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @kaylawebley, on Facebook or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.