Anya Kamenetz

Anya Kamenetz is NPR's lead education blogger. She joined NPR in 2014, working as part of a new initiative to coordinate on-air and online coverage of learning.

Kamenetz is the author of several books about the future of education. Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006), dealt with youth economics and politics; DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education (Chelsea Green, 2010), investigated innovations to address the crises in cost, access, and quality in higher education. Her forthcoming book, The Test (PublicAffairs, 2015), is about the past, present and future of testing in American schools.

Learning, Freedom and the Web (http://learningfreedomandtheweb.org/), The Edupunks' Guide (edupunksguide.org), and the Edupunks' Atlas (atlas.edupunksguide.org) are her free web projects about self-directed, web-enabled learning.

Previously, Kamenetz covered technology, innovation, sustainability and social entrepreneurship for five years as a staff writer for Fast Company magazine. She's contributed to The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Slate, and O, the Oprah Magazine.

Kamenetz was named a 2010 Game Changer in Education by the Huffington Post, received 2009 and 2010 National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association, and was submitted for a Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing by the Village Voice in 2005, where she had a column called Generation Debt.

She appears in the documentaries Generation Next (2006), Default: A Student Loan Documentary (2011), both shown on PBS, and Ivory Tower, which premiered at Sundance in 2014 and will be shown on CNN.

Kamenetz grew up in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, in a family of writers and mystics, and graduated from Yale University in 2002. She lives in New York City.

"I'll be famous one day, but for now I'm stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons." That's harsh language from the downtrodden sixth-grade narrator of Diary of A Wimpy Kid, a blockbuster series of graphic novels.

But it speaks to a broader truth.

It's not your imagination: Tiny tots are spending dramatically more time with tiny screens.

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, just released new numbers on media use by children 8 and under. The nationally representative parent survey found that 98 percent of homes with children now have a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone.

We're doing things by the numbers this week in our weekly roundup of all things education.

167 of 1,113 public schools in Puerto Rico are open

It has been more than six months since Betsy DeVos was confirmed as education secretary after one of the most contentious Cabinet nomination battles in memory, and so we thought it worth an update on her major moves so far — and the public response.

School choice

Cookie Monster is all wound up. The Count has him hold up his furry blue fingers, count them (of course), and blow on each one in turn as if he were blowing out a birthday candle. Afterward, Cookie declares, in his familiar growly voice, that he feels much better.

"Hey! Me feel terrific! Me calm. Me relaxed."

Fred Rogers, the beloved children's television host, used to tell a story about when he would see scary things in the news as a child. His mother would reassure him by saying: "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."

Lately, there's been a surfeit of scary news: Charlottesville, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and now Las Vegas.

In a tiny hamlet in Tanzania, children who have never been to school, and can't recognize a single letter in any language, are about to start learning basic math and reading. They'll do this with the help of a cutting-edge, artificially intelligent "tutor" who can hear what they are saying in Swahili and respond meaningfully.

In the slums of Bogota, Colombia, children play with special board games, dominoes and dice games that can teach them math and reading in a matter of months. Youth volunteers in the community help bring the games to younger children.

There's lots of new info this week for those thinking about college, plus many other education topics in our weekly roundup.

Schools on the mainland brace for Puerto Rican students

There is no date to reopen schools in the hurricane-ravaged U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Education Week reports that relief efforts are currently focused on meeting the basic needs of children and families.

Who, exactly, is a university teacher? What defines teaching? And how should the profession evolve in an age of rising tuition, worldwide connectivity, and fast-changing job markets?

Surprisingly, a recent federal audit of Western Governors University raises these questions.

The school was founded 20 years ago by a consortium of states; it's a nonprofit, online-only institution that has racked up accolades, becoming a national role model for its innovative and low-cost focus on working adults.

The letters "CFPB" may not be much more than alphabet soup to your average student loan borrower. They stand for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new-ish federal agency — created in 2011 — with a unique mission and a big effect on student lenders and for-profit colleges accused of defrauding or otherwise mistreating Americans.

There are more nonwhite teachers than there used to be. But the nation's teaching force still doesn't look like America. One former education school dean is out to change that.

New research shows that the number of K-12 teachers who belong to minority groups has doubled since the 1980s, growing at a faster rate than the profession as a whole. But big gaps persist, with around 80 percent of teachers identifying as white.

When Mitch Resnick was growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, he and his little brother were always making up new games. For example, he says, "In the basement, throw a tennis ball so it goes between the pipes in the ceiling for two points, and bounces off the pipe for one point."

His parents were tolerant of their making noise and rearranging the furniture. One summer he even dug up the backyard for a minigolf course. The design process was a matter of trial and error: Could he use soda cans to make the holes? What path would the ball take as it hit various obstacles?

Buckle up! We'll be visiting many U.S. states and territories in our weekly education news roundup.

Florida schools reopening after Irma

Schools all over Florida remained closed this week in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Most have targeted this Monday to reopen. The closures affected several hundred thousand students in some of the largest districts in the country, from Miami to Jacksonville.

DeVos' "Rethink School" tour

Christina Broussard was trapped in her grandmother's living room for three days during Hurricane Harvey. Rain poured through the ceiling in the bathrooms and bedrooms.

Broussard's a student at Houston Community College. Her grandmother is 74 and uses a wheelchair.

"We had peanut butter, tuna, crackers, we had plenty of water," she remembers. "We were hungry, but we managed. We tried to make light jokes about it — we said we were on a fast." And to pass the time? "We prayed."

"What would it mean to redesign higher education for the intellectual space travel students need to thrive in the world we live in now?"

That is one of the provocative questions that opens Cathy Davidson's latest book, The New Education. And unlike some of the journalists and business figures who have taken previous swings at that piñata, Davidson has a full career of research and practice to inform her abundance of answers.

"We had a parent go by and check on the chickens. They were fine and Wilson the cat was ok too! I know many people are concerned. What a wonderful community we have."

For the staff of Wilson Montessori, a public pre-K-8 school in Houston, the days after Harvey meant tracking down members of the community via text, collecting donations for those in need — and reassuring students about the fate of the school's pets.

The Department of Education will change its approach to campus sexual misconduct and begin a public notice and comment process to issue new regulations, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced today. In a speech at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School, DeVos decried "a system run amok," "kangaroo courts" and repeatedly emphasized the plight of the accused. "One rape is one too many ... one person denied due process is one too many," she said. Outside, protesters yelled, "Stop protecting rapists!"

A bit of background.

While the nation has been watching Harvey's devastation in Texas, news continues elsewhere, including education news. We'll catch you up.

Harvey closes schools for a million students

School districts across Texas — with over a million schoolchildren — are dealing with the aftermath of Harvey.

Brandon McElveen's Ford F150 pickup is lifted up about six inches. He says that's just the style in the South, but this week, "it's come in handy" for driving through up to four feet of water.

McElveen's a counselor at the KIPP Explore Academy elementary school in Houston. Within hours of the flooding this week, he began getting calls and messages asking for help. One was from a family with two girls on the middle school softball team he also coaches.

With his truck and a borrowed kayak, he estimates he's helped more than 20 people to safety.

In the last year, there's been a big drop in support for charter schools, while other forms of school choice are getting a little less unpopular. That's the top line of a national poll released today.

President Trump and his education secretary Betsy DeVos have put school choice front and center on their education agenda. The general idea of "choice," however, takes many forms.

How should educators confront bigotry, racism and white supremacy? The incidents in Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend pushed that question from history to current events.

Steven Isaacs — @mr_isaacs on Twitter — is a full-time technology teacher in Baskingridge, N.J. He's also the co-founder of a new festival that set the Guinness World Record for largest gathering dedicated to a single video game.

The game that cements both halves of his life together? Minecraft.

It's a fall tradition: Students don college sweatshirts and their parents, meanwhile, sweat the tuition bills.

One flash-in-the-pan movie this summer even featured a couple, played by Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, who start a casino to cope with their kids' college costs.

Annual tuition hikes have been pretty much a given in higher ed, but recently, there are signs that the decades-long rise in college costs is nearing a peak.

Betsy DeVos was back in western Michigan last week. It was her first public visit to the area where she grew up since being named education secretary. She visited a science-focused summer learning program and Grand Rapids Community College, and she met privately with superintendents from across the state.

A legal motion the Department of Education filed yesterday could have big ramifications for half a million teachers, social workers, police officers and other public servants. The motion asserts that there has been no final decision on whether these people will have their student debt forgiven, as they had believed.

There are some things Harvey Mudd College would like to be known for: being a small, close-knit, gender-balanced, racially and ethnically diverse engineering college; faculty who focus on teaching; graduates who head to companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft and earn six figures by mid-career.

And here is something it would not like to be known for: The last 12 months.

U.S. high schools got a high-tech update this past school year. Not by federal fiat or by state law, but largely at the hand of independent nonprofits, including one founded by twin brothers less than five years ago.

"It beeped in the envelope. That's how we knew."

Leslie Conrad is the director of Clemson Outdoor Lab in Pendleton, S.C., which runs several different camps during the summer. Clemson bans cellphones and other electronic devices for campers.

That makes sense. We traditionally think of summer camp as a place to swim in the lake and weave friendship bracelets, not text and play video games.

In this week's edition of our education news roundup, we take you from school vouchers to AP exams to community college.

Betsy DeVos speaks to American Legislative Exchange Council

Protests greeted the education secretary in Denver this week at her speech to the American Legislative Exchange Council. Her family has close ties to the organization, which brings together state legislators, free-market conservatives and corporate sponsors to write model bills that get adopted all over the country.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spoke to the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, on Thursday in Denver, but protests from left-wing activists and teacher groups started Wednesday.

Hundreds marched from the state Capitol in Denver to the Hyatt Regency, the site of the speech, with signs reading: "Dump Betsy DeVos," "Take Devouchers Elsewhere" and "Stop School Privatization!"

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