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Education

Secret Lives Of Teachers: 'Bored Of Education'

Nov 18, 2014

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.

The third in our four-part series on reading in the Common Core era.

Every set of academic standards has a soul.

Yes, a soul. It's made of varied stuff: part research, part practice, part conviction of its authors.

To find the soul, follow the words that turn up again and again in the winding backwaters and byways of the standards themselves.

A search of the Common Core English Language Arts Standards turns up one remarkable word 105 times. It is "complex" (or "complexity").

Common Core Reading: The High Achievers

Nov 13, 2014

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.

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?"

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.

This year, NPR Ed is reporting on the dramatic changes in the New Orleans school system.

All startups face big hurdles. But when you're a startup school in one of America's poorest cities, without deep-pocket backers, the challenges are daunting.

Oscar Brown is a New Orleans native. He grew up in the Desire housing project, a little over a mile west of his current home in a neighborhood ravaged by the storm that struck nearly a decade ago.

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.

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.

  1. Let Y = the total percentage of community college students prevented from graduating simply by failing that one subject, X. What is Y?

    The answer: Y = 48.

  2. And if you haven't guessed it by now, What is X?

"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.

Sure, using tablets and computers can have upsides for children. They can provide, education for one, or just plain old entertainment value.

But we know there are downsides, too. NPR reported just last week on a study indicating screen time can negatively affect children's ability to read people's emotions.

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.

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."

How To Make The Most Of Your 10 Minutes With Teacher

Sep 18, 2014

So you finally get the chance to meet one on one with your child's teacher — now what?

Like a good Boy Scout, be prepared: Educators agree that doing your homework before a parent-teacher conference can make a big difference.

The NPR Ed Mailbag: Alternative Teacher Certification

Sep 16, 2014

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.

Q&A: Why Teaching Music Matters

Sep 15, 2014

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.

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."

At corporations, leadership matters. A lot. Think of the impact of the late Steve Jobs at Apple or Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg today, to name a couple.

CEOs often play a vital role in bolstering a company's performance, image and culture of success. (Although studies show that obscenely high CEO compensation isn't always the best incentive.)

Gentlemen, Preschool Is Calling

Sep 4, 2014

Glenn Peters knew he would be in the minority when he started training to teach preschool as part of New York City's rollout of universal pre-K, the largest such initiative in the country. But he didn't realize just how rare men are in the profession until he attended a resume-building workshop for aspiring pre-K teachers.

"They couldn't find the bathroom code for the men's bathroom, so I actually had to go to the women's room while someone stood guard outside the bathroom," Peters says. "I knew at that moment that I was a bit of a unicorn."

After years of criticism for being too lax on campus sexual assault, some colleges and universities are coming under fire from students who say the current crackdown on perpetrators has gone too far.

Dozens of students who've been punished for sexual assault are suing their schools, saying that they didn't get a fair hearing and that their rights to due process were violated. The accused students say schools simply are overcorrecting.

Sounds From The First Day Of School

Sep 2, 2014

The day after Labor Day is traditionally the end of summer break and the start of the school year. But for students in many parts of the country, the school year has already started.

Whether you're struggling to find your classroom or remember your locker combination, the first day is a big one for students, teachers and families.

With millions of children headed back to school, we asked reporters from member stations around the country to bring us the sounds of that first day:

Kids And Screen Time: What Does The Research Say?

Aug 28, 2014

Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions, according to new research out of the University of California, Los Angeles.

When you think about a sentence, you usually think about words — not lines. But sentence diagramming brings geometry into grammar.

If you weren't taught to diagram a sentence, this might sound a little zany. But the practice has a long — and controversial — history in U.S. schools.

And while it was once commonplace, many people today don't even know what it is.

So let's start with the basics.

Why The Atlanta Testing Scandal Matters

Aug 17, 2014

Once, in a sauna at a Korean spa in Queens, I overheard what sounded like two teachers discussing the cheating practices of a third. "You know how she does it," one said. "She'll lean over a student about to put a wrong answer and whisper, 'Check your work.' "

"Yes, and her finger will just happen to be on the right answer," said the other one.

Every year, more than 20 million students apply for federal financial aid to help pay for college. Five years ago, Mandy Stango was one of them.

To get there, though, Stango felt confused and woefully unprepared. That confusion started with the very first step in the process, as she and her family had to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA.

"I sat there, I read the directions, and crossed my fingers and hoped I was doing the right thing," says Stango, who's now 23.

Terrorism and conflict can be good for business — if your business is teaching people to avoid kidnapping and escape from captors.

Americans are spending lots of money on a burgeoning evasion and survival industry, in classes that teach people to free themselves from handcuffs with a barrette and prepare for worst-case scenarios.

This week, NPR Ed is focusing on questions about why people play and how play relates to learning.

Imagine you're playing a computer game that asks you to design a poster for the school fair. You're fiddling with fonts, changing background colors and deciding what activity to feature: Will a basketball toss appeal to more people than a pie bake-off?

Some doctors in the state of California will soon be able to practice after three years of medical school instead of the traditional four. The American Medical Association is providing seed money for the effort in the form of a $1 million, five-year grant to the University of California at Davis.

Student Ngabo Nzigira is in his sixth week of medical school and he's already interacting with patients during training with a doctor at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento.

Education is historically considered to be the thing that levels the playing field, capable of lifting up the less advantaged and improving their chances for success.

"Play by the rules, work hard, apply yourself and do well in school, and that will open doors for you," is how Karl Alexander, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist, puts it.

But a study published in June suggests that the things that really make the difference — between prison and college, success and failure, sometimes even life and death — are money and family.

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