Education

If you've ever gotten a glimpse inside a high schooler's backpack or locker, you know organization doesn't always come naturally to teens. Being scatterbrained in school can make make it tough to stay focused and do well.

That was the case when Lilli Stordeur was about halfway through her freshman year of high school in Northampton, Mass. She felt totally overwhelmed.

"I was being tutored for the classes I was having trouble in," she says, "but I would be having a hard time organizing my binders, and notebooks and stuff, and knowing when to hand things in."

Picture your favorite college professor. Here are some adjectives that might come to mind: Wise. Funny. Caring. Prompt. Passionate. Organized. Tough but fair.

Now, are you thinking of a man or a woman?

A new study argues that student evaluations are systematically biased against women — so much so, in fact, that they're better mirrors of gender bias than of what they are supposed to be measuring: teaching quality.

By some accounts, education is a $7 trillion global industry ripe for disruption. Others see it as a sacred pursuit, nurturing developing minds while preserving tradition. Around the world, education means equal rights and opportunity.

People risk their lives for it every day.

Take two 18-year-olds with equally stellar academic abilities. One comes from the socioeconomic bottom and one from the top. That lower-income student is one-third as likely to enroll in a selective college.

Ring, ring.

Hello?

It's reality calling. People are shallow, and life isn't fair.

In a new paper, a pair of researchers looked at the student records of tens of thousands of students at their university. They compared the students' class grades to ratings of their physical attractiveness, as judged by outside observers from their student ID card photographs.

President Obama used his final State of the Union address Tuesday night to reflect on his legacy. But he also put forth some specific proposals for his remaining year in office. And the very first one was "helping students learn to write computer code."

Just because a toy's packaging says it's educational doesn't make it so. That's the finding from a new study in JAMA Pediatrics that found some toys being marketed as language promoters got in the way of learning.

In 2015, Khan Academy, which pioneered free, online video tutorials and lectures that have reached millions of students around the world, sought new ways of reaching new people.

It had already partnered with everyone from NASA to the Museum of Modern Art, and this past year Khan joined forces with the SAT's overlord, the College Board. The goal, in the parlance of our times, is to disrupt the billion-dollar test prep industry.

It has been a high-stakes year for high-stakes standardized tests.

The debate over renewing the big federal education law turned, in part, on whether annual testing would remain a federal mandate. Republicans initially said no, Democrats said yes. Ultimately the overhaul passed with tests still in place.

Even some of those seeking the nation's highest office have weighed in on college debt with payment plans and relief proposals. Voters and the media ask for details on the campaign trail. And that highlights a remarkable shift: Policymakers and politicians are paying attention to this issue like never before.

And it's not as simple or cynical as trying to woo the important student vote. The fact is, the student loan burden in America is second only to mortgages in consumer debt. The government estimates that some 41 million students together owe more than $1.2 trillion.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Academic learning is usually in the spotlight at school, but teaching elementary-age students "soft" skills like self-control and social skills might help in keeping at-risk kids out of criminal trouble in the future, a study finds.

Duke University researchers looked at a program called Fast Track, which was started in the early 1990s for children who were identified by their teachers and parents to be at high risk for developing aggressive behavioral problems.

Eric Westervelt of the NPR Ed team is guest-hosting for the next few weeks on Here & Now, the midday news program from NPR and WBUR.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Gun control. Climate change. Donald Trump. Affirmative action.

The first presidential primaries are just weeks away and with all these debates and issues in the headlines, there's no question that students are going to want to talk about them.

But how should teachers handle these discussions?

A drug that can cure hepatitis C was one of the top pharmaceutical costs in most states' Medicaid budgets in 2014.

All told, 33 states spent more than $1 billion to treat the disease with Gilead Sciences' Sovaldi, according to data released Tuesday by Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Still, the money spent was enough to treat only 2.4 percent of Medicaid patients infected with the virus.

For the fourth straight year, the U.S. high school graduation rate has improved — reaching an all-time high of 82 percent in the 2013-2014 school year, the Department of Education announced Tuesday. Achievement gaps have narrowed, too, with graduation rates ranging from 89 percent for students classified as Asian/Pacific Islanders to 62.6 percent for English-language learners.

"It is encouraging to see our graduation rate on the rise and I applaud the hard work we know it takes to see this increase," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a statement.

For Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 7-13), the nonprofit Code.org has helped organize nearly 200,000 "Hour of Code" events around the world. It's advocating for computer coding as a basic literacy and an essential ingredient for jobs of the future, and there's a lot of momentum behind the idea.

The biggest school systems in the country, New York City and Los Angeles Unified, each announced this fall that computer science will be a required course for all grades within 10 years. Coding is also part of national curricula in the U.K. and soon will be in Australia.

The CDC Gives U.S. Schools Low Marks In Sex Ed

Dec 10, 2015

Fewer than one-fifth of middle schools — and half of high schools — are teaching all of the sex education topics recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new study reveals.

The CDC report found that, for every age group, the least likely topics to be taught were how to get and use condoms.

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