Education

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Mayor Bill de Blasio this week pushed ahead with plans to make New York City one of nation's few big cities to offer free, full-day preschool for all 3-year-olds­­.

The plan would serve, when fully rolled out over several years, more than 60,000 children a year. It builds on one of de Blasio's signature accomplishments of his first term – universal pre-K for 4-year-olds.

For only the third time ever, the government released today a national report card examining the knowledge, understanding and abilities of U.S. eighth-graders in visual arts and music.

And in many ways, the numbers aren't great, with little progress shown in most categories since the last time the assessment was given in 2008. One bright spot: The achievement gap between Hispanic students and their white peers has narrowed. But Hispanics and African-Americans still lag far behind white and Asian eighth-graders.

With student debt at a staggering $1.3 trillion, many families are facing a huge financial dilemma: Their final springtime decisions about college enrollment and acceptance. The NPR Ed team teamed up with Weekend Edition to answer some listener questions about debt and degrees.

Waiting on the numbers

Marcy, from Union City, N.J. has twin girls going off to college in September.

One day Ronnie Sidney, from Tappahannock, Va., was goofing off with his classmates in math when one of them threw a paper football at the board — and it landed a little too close to the teacher. Sidney says the eighth-grade teacher, visibly frustrated, turned around and said, "None of you are going to college."

Greetings and welcome to NPR Ed's weekly roundup of education news from Washington and around the country.

Supreme Court hears a voucher-related case

Grant Blankenship / GPB

All the open seats at the Academy for Classical Education were gone by the time Sammy Smith’s daughters’ names were pulled in the school’s admissions lottery.

By then it was all about the waiting list for the parents still hanging around the ACE cafeteria on a day in February.

Organizers of Saturday's nationwide March for Science have some pretty lofty goals: supporting science "as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity." Promoting "evidence-based policies in the public interest." Oh, and don't forget highlighting "the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world."

Whoa, that's a lot of exalted ground to cover with one cardboard sign!

Like any good fifth-grade teacher, Mike Matthews wants to make his social studies unit on the American West as exciting as possible. So he's planning a special "Wild West" evening at the school with his students.

"We're going to have good ol' cowboy-fashion hot dogs and beans, Texas Toast and beef jerky," he says. Matthews will tell stories around a mock campfire, and for added authenticity, the fifth-graders will set up a saloon.

Last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appointed Candice Jackson as the acting assistant secretary of the Office for Civil Rights. Jackson will oversee a staff of hundreds charged with responding to thousands of civil rights complaints every year, including some from students who feel discriminated against based on race, color, national origin, sex, ability, and age.

Mariah Evans, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, began to notice a trend in her morning classes: Her students were falling asleep.

While this would make most feel discouraged in their teaching abilities or agitated over their students' idleness, Evans instead was curious. Was there more to this than just laziness?

The crisis in Syria has displaced about 1.4 million children and teenagers from their homes. An estimated 900,000 of them are not in school.

Historically, in conflict zones, education has taken a backseat to immediate needs like food, shelter and medical care. But more recently, there has been a movement in the international aid community to provide better "education in emergencies."

Girindra Nath Jha was born and raised in the tiny village of Chanka, a settlement in the state of Bihar in northern India, close to the Nepal border. It's mostly grassy fields and mud huts with thatched roofs. It gets just seven hours of electricity per day and its first paved road arrived only last year. None of the homes have toilets.

And a lot of its 7,000 residents have gray hair.

Every day in this country students come to school without a way to pay for lunch. Right now it's up to the school to decide what happens next.

Since new legislation out of New Mexico on so-called lunch shaming made headlines, we've heard a lot about how schools react.

What will our dinners look like when temperatures and sea levels rise and water floods our coastal towns and cities?

Allie Wist, 29, an associate art director at Saveur magazine, attempts to answer that question in her latest art project, "Flooded." It's a fictional photo essay (based on real scientific data) about a dinner party menu at a time when climate change has significantly altered our diets.

Greetings and welcome to our weekly roundup of education news from Washington and around the country:

DeVos hires

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made her first official staff announcement this week, with 10 names.

Among them: Josh Venable, will serve as DeVos' chief of staff. He worked on the presidential campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and is an advocate of both school choice and the Common Core.

This weekend marks 10 years since the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history, at Virginia Tech.

Thirty-two people were killed and many others injured on April 16, 2007, on the campus in Blacksburg, Va. Still others witnessed the shooting and were physically unharmed, but carry psychological wounds that they've also spent the last decade recovering from.

When I was 4 years old, my parents faced a decision. My birthday is in late November, so should they send me to kindergarten as the youngest kid in my class? Or, wait another year to enroll me? — A practice referred to as academic redshirting.

Since I was already the oldest sibling, they decided it was time for me to experience something different. So, they sent me to school.

DoDEA Communications / Foter

As the population of Latino students increases, the number of Latino teachers in the workforce is still scarce. Gainesville and Hall County are struggling to find teachers who reflect the student population. We talk about this with Julio Cabanas, an Assistant Principal at Fair Street Elementary in Gainesville. Cabanas is also Gainesville’s first Hispanic school administrator.

On the Navajo Nation, kids with the most severe developmental disabilities attend a school called Saint Michael's Association for Special Education.

Dameon David, 8, is waking up from a nap in his classroom. He has come to the school in northeastern Arizona for four years. He has cerebral palsy, seizures and scoliosis. His mom, Felencia Woodie, picks him up from a bed with Superman sheets.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now a remembrance of a man who gave more than $100 million over his lifetime to education, a man whose philanthropy started seemingly on a whim.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Over a quarter of the schools on the Georgia’s Priority Schools List are moving on.

 

In total, 74 out of the 243 schools on the list have worked their way off the list. Most of those schools are in the Atlanta metro area, especially in the Atlanta Public School system and the Dekalb County School System.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

Do you love the kitchen? Do you love it enough earn your living there?

High School students at in the culinary arts track at the Hutchings College and Career Academy in Macon get to answer both of those questions at the school’s Compass Rose Cafe.

 

Robbinsville High School sits in a small gap in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Green slopes dotted with cattle hug in around the school before they rise into a thick cover of pine trees.

David Matheson is the principal here. And he's the only high school principal in the state who still performs corporal punishment. At Robbinsville, corporal punishment takes the form of paddling - a few licks on the backside Matheson delivers with a long wooden paddle.

Lawyers for Rolling Stone and Nicole Eramo, a former University of Virginia associate dean, have reached a confidential settlement over a 2014 story in the magazine about an alleged gang rape on campus.

In the defamation case, Eramo alleged the article portrayed her as indifferent to victims of sexual assault.

Tennessee caused a stir earlier this year when it ran an audit of the state's 2015 graduating class. The number crunchers in Nashville reported that nearly a third of students who received a diploma didn't complete the required coursework. One in three.

Naturally, parents and politicians alike were baffled and more than a little bothered.

New York state has passed legislation that would create the largest experiment in the country to offer free tuition at two- and four-year colleges. The Excelsior Scholarship, approved over the weekend as part of the state budget, would cover full-time students in the State University of New York system, which totals 64 campuses and 1.3 million students.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, appeared with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and state education leaders in an event hailing the new program, which would begin this fall and is estimated to cost $163 million per year.

How important is it to have a role model?

A new working paper puts some numbers to that question.

Having just one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade reduced low-income black boys' probability of dropping out of high school by 39 percent, the study found.

And by high school, African-American students, both boys and girls, who had one African-American teacher had much stronger expectations of going to college. Keep in mind, this effect was observed seven to ten years after the experience of having just one black teacher.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In recent years, the fate of Chicago's public schools is increasingly driven by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former Obama administration top adviser and Chicago native. Some community activists and a growing number of black and Latino parents are expressing anxiety and unhappiness over what they see as his disregard for their needs, and the barriers they face due in part to historic institutional discrimination.

For many, alarms went off last week when he announced proposed new high school graduation requirements.

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