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Madalitso Mulando knew what she needed to finish 10th grade: $150.

That's the cost of tuition at Chinika Secondary School, a public high school in Lusaka, Zambia.

Completing 10th grade was part of Mulando's dream to go to medical school and become a doctor.

But the 15-year-old's parents were broke.

"Yeah, I was alone. I was in my bedroom ... and I started, like, crying because Mom and Dad didn't have any money," she remembers. "And I was like, maybe I'll never go to school again because Mom and Dad didn't have any money."

"The value of my education is priceless, but the value of my education is also not $140,000 in debt."

That was the statement of a Hunter College graduate with a master's degree, as quoted in the documentary Ivory Tower. And a new national poll suggests that thousands of graduates, especially younger graduates, agree with her.

Ron Turiello's daughter, Grace, seemed unusually alert even as a newborn.

At 7 months or so, she showed an interest in categorizing objects: She'd take a drawing of an elephant in a picture book, say, and match it to a stuffed elephant and a realistic plastic elephant.

At 5 or 6 years old, when snorkeling with her family in Hawaii, she identified a passing fish correctly as a Heller's barracuda, then added, "Where are the rest? They usually travel in schools."

In Molly Pollak's second-floor Manhattan apartment, the spare bedroom is filled with decades of classroom memories.

"Those are all my high school yearbooks," Pollak says, pointing to a shelf stacked two books deep. "Those are my middle school yearbooks. There's more over here."

Even more shelves are stuffed with old lesson plans.

"I really need to throw them away," she admits.

Take a big room in Manhattan with more than 100 people, all of them fired up about education. Add some dramatic lighting and booming PA announcements, and you've got last week's New York Times Schools for Tomorrow conference. And everybody there, from university presidents to ed tech startups, was talking about how higher education is changing.

Here are some of the themes and ideas that stole the show.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

A few years ago, a good friend and I were walking near downtown Philadelphia, not far from my old elementary school, Thomas C. Durham, on 16th and Lombard. The school was built on the edge of a black neighborhood in South Philly in the early 1900s, and its design earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places when I was in the third grade. I nudged my friend to take a quick detour with me.

The US News & World Report Best Colleges rankings, the leaderboard of competitive college admissions, are out this week. And all this week on All Things Considered, we've been talking with students who graduated from high school in Montgomery County, Md., four or five years ago.

Imagine you had the option of going to a top state university on a full ride or a prestigious Ivy League for about $20,000 a year. Would it be a hard decision? What would you choose?

Four years ago, Becca Arbacher had to make that decision. She chose Columbia in New York City over the University of Michigan.

And she's glad she did.

"Being at Columbia has offered me some really incredible opportunities that I wouldn't have otherwise," says Arbacher. "It's kind of impossible for me to guess what my experience would have been like at Michigan."

Alabama's Science Standards Get A Makeover

Sep 10, 2015

Alabama schools are getting new science standards for the first time in a decade. The state Board of Education voted unanimously today to replace old standards that some teachers say were behind the times the moment they were approved.

As evidence, they point to their students' biology textbooks, many of which currently come with warning stickers that call evolution "a controversial theory." The state's old science standards say students should "wrestle with the unresolved problems still faced" by evolution.

It's show time.

"Please try to limit all other background noise, like your cellphone should be muted."

This is a virtual classroom, and that's the stage manager giving last-minute instructions to students. This is unlike any virtual classroom you've probably ever imagined. Behind the scenes, in a control room upstairs, a producer calls the camera shots.

"Stay with him. I'm going to four. Take six."

The Harvard Business School has rented this television studio from WGBH in Boston, and transformed it into a sleek online classroom.

Going to college today is a very different experience than it once was. The cost has soared, and the great recession cut into many of the assets that were supposed to pay for it. This week All Things Considered is talking with young people — and in some cases their parents — about the value of school and about their choice of what kind of college to attend.

Researchers have been tracking Jose Arriaga since he was 4 years old, waiting for the day he would start ninth grade. This fall, Jose is a freshman at Booker T. Washington High School, a selective public school in north Tulsa, Okla. And no one is more proud of him than his mother, Veronica Arriaga.

"He's been a straight-A student throughout middle school," Mrs. Arriaga says in Spanish. "That's why he's here."

America, by far, has the highest incarceration rate among developed nations. The rate of imprisonment in the U.S. has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years, fueled by "three strikes" and mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.

It's an increasingly popular move in higher education. Hundreds of schools no longer require student applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores.

In July, George Washington University became the latest school to throw its considerable weight behind the test-optional movement. Its explanation:

So if you add up all the college costs that students and parents probably didn't plan for — the stuff that isn't tuition and room and board — how big is that number? The National Retail Federation estimates that, this year, it will total $43 billion. That's a hard number to grasp, so let's break it down to one family — mine.

With our daughter now beginning her fourth and hopefully final year in college, here's one thing I've learned: No matter how much you plan to spend, it won't cover everything. Not even close.

Will Grover's promotion to HBO be good for kids?

Elmo, Snuffy, Grover and Big Bird could soon hit the HBO after-parties alongside Tyrion Lannister and the ethically challenged cops from True Detective.

Promising a win-win for kids and quality children's programming, HBO, the nonprofit Sesame Workshop and PBS have announced that new Sesame Street episodes will move to HBO and its streaming service HBO GO this fall.

There are few household names in education research. Maybe that in itself constitutes a problem. But if there was an Education Researcher Hall Of Fame, one member would be a silver-haired, plainspoken Kiwi named John Hattie.

Hattie directs the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He also directs something called the Science of Learning Research Centre, which works with over 7,000 schools worldwide.

Kindergarten is a huge moment in a child's life. So imagine if your parents sent you to a school where they teach most of the day in a language you don't speak, like Spanish or German or Japanese. In California, a growing number of families are choosing schools like this. It's called dual-language immersion. Reporter Deepa Fernandes followed the Gomez family this past year as their daughter, Gemma, attended a public school that teaches in Mandarin.

It's blazingly hot outside and five summer fellows from the Tulane City Center are standing in a playground at a youth center in New Orleans. The architecture students diplomatically describe the playground's design as "unintentional": There's no grass, trees or even much shade, and it's surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. The students, both graduate and undergraduate, are there to make the playground a little nicer.

"Right now, it feels like a prison," says Maggie Hansen, the center's interim director.

The Confederate flag. The Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Policing minority communities. Nuclear weapons and Iran. Summer often brings a lull in the news, but not this year. And, come September, students are going to want to talk about these headlines.

But how should teachers navigate our nation's thorny politics?

The College Board has just released the latest curriculum framework for its Advanced Placement U.S. history course, and it appears to have satisfied many of the old framework's critics.

The rewrite comes after anger over its 2014 framework sent the College Board, which administers the AP exam, back to the drawing board.

It's the summer session at the Al Salam School in Reyhanli, a town in southern Turkey, just across the border from Syria. Girls are practicing their shots on the outdoor basketball court. A class of 8-year-olds is busy with English language drills. The computer lab is open.

Many of these Syrian refugees live in desperate conditions, but for a few hours a day there is the familiar world of school.

Braden Swenson wanders into a semi-rickety wooden shed on his search for gold, treasure and riches.

"Is there any treasure in here?" he asks in the endearing dialect of a 4-year-old. "I've been looking everywhere for them. I can't find any." The proto-pirate toddler conducts a quick search, then wanders away to continue his quest elsewhere.

Not far away, Ethan Lipsie, age 9, clutches a framing hammer and a nine-penny nail. He's ready to hang his freshly painted sign on a wooden "fort" he's been hammering away on. It says, "Ethan, Hudson and William were here."

On the second floor of Morgan State University's engineering building, Jacob Walker, 12, is putting the finishing touches on a ruler he's just created.

Not yet an actual ruler. One he's designing on the computer. He just needs to add his initials — then it's time to produce it on a 3-D printer.

Jacob starts seventh grade in the fall and has big dreams. Building this ruler is all part of the plan.

"When I was a child," he says, "I loved to play with Legos, and it inspired me to be an engineer when I get older."

The Obama administration Friday is taking a small step toward expanding adult prisoners' access to federal Pell grants. The money would help pay for college-level classes behind bars.

Virginia Savage lives in a part of north St. Louis, Mo., that's filled with vacant buildings, including Marshall Elementary. It has been closed for years now, and vines crawl into the building's smashed-out windows. The playground is littered with empty liquor bottles.

Savage went to school at Marshall as a young girl, and now she sees bigger problems beyond all those blemishes: "Drug dealers, drug users, eyesore. That's what I see."

In St. Louis, the student enrollment is one-fourth the size it was in the 1960s. That drop has led the district to close 30 or so schools.

If you looked at the children at the edge of Conrad Cooper's pool, you'd think you were watching an ad for something. Jell-O, maybe. Or a breakfast cereal kids like. They're that cute.

They're lined up on the steps in the shallow end, 10 little ones, ranging from age 2 to 5. The boys are in board trunks, many wearing rash-guard shirts like the weekend surfers they might become years from now. The girls wear bright one-piece suits and two-pieces that show their childish potbellies.

It's been a theory of mine that the assistant principal has the toughest job in education.

I got that idea a long time ago, when I was a student teacher at a middle school.

It seemed the assistant principal's job goes something like this:

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