Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 1:23 pm
It's late afternoon. Most classes at Randolph College are done for the day but students have begun gathering in the lobby of the elegant, century-old main hall.
A student taps on a piano while he and four classmates wait for their philosophy professor. After-hours sessions like these are a key feature of this small, private liberal arts college in Lynchburg, Va.
It markets itself nationally as a "unique, nurturing community of learners," well worth the $45,000 a year in tuition, room and board.
Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 7:54 pm
This story was reported for the radio by Eric Westervelt and for online by Anya Kamenetz.
"We, the Committee of Public Safety, find Jean Valjean guilty. The sentence is death by guillotine!"
Molly McPherson, a redhead with glasses, is dressed in a blue bathrobe — in costume as Robespierre. Her seventh-graders are re-enacting the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, with a little assist from Les Miserables.
Originally published on Thu November 20, 2014 11:09 am
You're a sixth-grader in New York City. Your principal gives you a choice: Get free tickets to a Columbia University football game, or participate in a music video in which your assistant principal is the lead singer.
Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 1:29 pm
Part 2 in a four-part series on reading in the Common Core era.
Linnea Wolters was prepared to hate the Common Core State Standards.
She taught fifth grade at a low-income school in Reno, Nev., where, she says, there was always some new plan to improve things. And none of it added up to good education. But, after leading her class through a Core-aligned lesson — a close reading of Emma Lazarus' sonnet "The New Colossus" — she was intrigued, especially by the way different students reacted to the process.
Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 1:30 pm
For this series, we've been thinking a lot about some of the iconic objects that some of us remember using — if only for a short period of time — in our early schooling. Slide rules, the recorder, protractors and Bunsen burners.
But when the abacus came up, we were a bit stumped.
"Does anyone still use this thing?" we wondered. "And how the heck does it work?"
Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 12:24 pm
If there's one thing college kids do best, it's thinking creatively. Often operating with limited resources and tight deadlines, they're used to coming up with ingenious solutions to life's everyday problems (usually on little sleep). So it's no surprise that experts are turning to students for help in battling one of this year's most pressing global health issues: the Ebola outbreak.
Originally published on Sun October 12, 2014 6:52 pm
To get a student loan at Broward College, one of Florida's largest community colleges, you first have to sit through a two-hour financial lesson with Kent Dunston.
It's a little like Scared Straight, the 1978 documentary designed to keep kids from ending up in prison.
Dunston's lesson, though, is about scaring students into making good financial choices. Nationwide, student loans total more than $1.2 trillion. And schools now face punishment — even closure — by the federal government if the rate is too high.
Take yourself back to those highly emotional, patriotic months after the 9/11 attacks.
In the midst of war, terrorism, fear and mourning, one bill passed 87-10 in the Senate and by a similar margin in the House — with equal support from both sides of the aisle. It was signed into law in January 2002 by George W. Bush, with the liberal lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, by his side.
Originally published on Fri October 10, 2014 7:16 am
Let's start with a little word problem. Sixty percent of the nation's 12.8 million community college students are required to take at least one course in subject X. Eighty percent of that 60 percent never move on past that requirement.
Let Y = the total percentage of community college students prevented from graduating simply by failing that one subject, X. What is Y?
Originally published on Fri November 21, 2014 1:32 pm
"I went to a four-year university." "That job requires a one-year certificate." "It's a two-semester course." "She's a fifth-year senior." What do these expressions have in common? They use time as the yardstick for higher education.
Essentially, this means measuring not how much you've learned, but how long you've spent trying to learn it.
Originally published on Fri October 3, 2014 3:56 pm
Hundreds of Colorado high school students have walked out of class in the past two weeks to protest proposed changes to the Advanced Placement history curriculum.
The firestorm of protest was sparked by a resolution in August from Jefferson County school board member Julie Williams. When she heard that conservatives across the country were upset about the new AP history curriculum, she proposed a committee to review the district's courses.
Originally published on Tue September 30, 2014 6:46 pm
The walls are lined with robots and movie posters for Star Wars and Back to the Future. But this is no 1980s nerd den. It's the technology lab at Westside Neighborhood School in Los Angeles, and the domain of its ed-tech coordinator, Don Fitz-Roy.
"So we're gonna be talking about digital citizenship today."
Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 7:48 pm
Last week I reported about Indiana's newest teaching license. Called a "career specialist" license, it allows anyone with a B.A., a B average, and three years of related work experience to become a middle or high school teacher just by passing a content test.
Overall, 1 in 5 teachers now enters the profession through nontraditional means — meaning other than by studying education in a four-year or master's program.
Originally published on Sat September 20, 2014 2:07 pm
Harmony Project Offers More Than Just Music In LA
I went to Los Angeles to report a story on brain science. A new study had just been released, exploring how music instruction helps kids process language. The children the researchers studied were all participants in a community music program run by the nonprofit Harmony Project.
Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 1:11 pm
Janna Espinoza's daughter Coraline has hearing loss, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and developmental delays. Nearly 2 years old, she can't sit up, stand, creep or use her hands as a typically developing child does.
Coraline is among an estimated 6.4 million children in the U.S. with a disability. And for these kids the simple ritual of playing outside can get very complicated.
"My daughter can't do very much at a typical playground, except watch her older sister play," says Espinoza. "Playgrounds are a depressing place for us."