Education

Ways to Connect

Think back to grade school for a moment and envision that one teacher who could captivate you more than any other. Did that teacher look a bit like you? One recent study says: probably.

Republicans who might have been leery of supporting the bipartisan Dream Act got a more conservative-friendly option this week in the form of a new bill dubbed the SUCCEED Act (Solution for Undocumented Children through Careers, Employment, Education and Defending our nation).

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.

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BETSY DEVOS: One rape is one too many. One assault is one too many.

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is doing what she promised.

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The Department of Justice has brought charges in a wide-ranging college basketball bribery and fraud case. Here's how U.S. Attorney Joon Kim laid it out at a news conference today.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions had some things to say today about the intense national debate over protest and free speech. Instead of stadiums, though, Sessions focused on college campuses. NPR's Ryan Lucas has more.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended his boss's criticism of NFL players for kneeling in protest during the national anthem, saying Tuesday that President Trump has "free speech rights, too."

Sessions defended Trump's controversial remarks as he criticized college speech policies during an address at the Georgetown University Law Center. "Freedom of thought and speech on the American campus are under attack," he said.

"In this great land," Sessions also said, "the government does not get to tell you what to think or what to say."

How do you judge how good a school is? Test scores? Culture? Attendance?

In the new federal education law (the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA) states are asked to use five measures of student success. The first four are related to academics — like annual tests and graduation rates. The fourth measures proficiency of English language learners.

The fifth is the wild card — aimed at measuring "student success or school quality" — and the law leaves it to states to decide.

Federal agents have arrested former NBA star Chuck Person and several other college basketball coaches, in a bribery and fraud case that also involves sports management agents and a top executive at Adidas. In all, 10 people were arrested.

Pulling The Plug On Free Speech Week

Sep 25, 2017

With guest host John Donvan.

A controversial event planned for this week at the University of California at Berkeley has been officially called off.

“Free Speech Week” was the brainchild of a conservative student group that invited far-right provocateurs like Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on campus. Over the weekend, the four-day event was canceled.

David Goldman / AP Photo

Georgia Tech student Scout Schultz was shot and killed after provoking campus police officers. Schultz had a history of mental health issues and suicide attempts.

This past week at the United Nations General Assembly, Malala Yousafzai met with key world leaders — including President Emmanuel Macron of France — to discuss increased investment in education, with a focus on opportunities for girls. Malala stepped onto the world stage in 2012 after she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban for defying the group, and speaking out about education under its government. That encounter did not stop her from continuing her mission to further education for girls.

Welcome to the latest installment of our education news roundup. This week: student loans, HBCUs, federal education policy and more:

The Department of Education scolds an online university

Western Governors University was ineligible for federal student aid and may have to return more than $700 million, according to an audit by the U.S. Education Department's oversight branch.

Can Teaching Civics Save Democracy?

Sep 22, 2017

Young adults are losing faith in American democracy and have difficulty distinguishing between "fake news" and reliable news. That's according to a new research paper out from Tufts University.

The solution? Support civic learning programs in K-12 education at the state and local level, the researchers argue.

"We know that if you study civics in high school you are more likely to be an informed voter," says Peter Levine, co-author of the paper and an associate dean for research at Tufts.

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This HIDDEN BRAIN. I'm Shankar Vedantam. For many years, tech companies have been really good at innovation and making money. What they've been less good at is in hiring and keeping a diverse workforce.

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When the fourth-graders in Mrs. Marlem Diaz-Brown's class returned to school on Monday, they were tasked with writing their first essay of the year. The topic was familiar: Hurricane Irma.

By Wednesday, they had worked out their introduction and evidence paragraphs and were brainstorming their personal experiences. To help them remember, Mrs. D-B had them draw out a timeline — starting Friday before the storm. Then, based on their drawings, they could start to talk about — and eventually, write about — what they experienced.

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.

Every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter has pledged commitment to historically black colleges, or HBCUs.

And just about every year, HBCU leaders gather in Washington D.C., to lobby Congress and the White House. This year President Trump was not there to greet them, which was just as well because the meeting took place amid simmering frustration with the Trump administration.

Much of that frustration is due to what HBCUs consider little or no support from the administration, and what they call a lack of understanding of the financial straits some schools are facing.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos insisted about 10 times during her recent policy address that there's a "better way" for colleges handle campus sexual assault. Now, as officials begin work to find it, they may well be taking a cue a few groups that DeVos says has already "made progress on these difficult issues." Here's a look at the recommendation of those groups.

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.

Mélisande Short-Colomb knew her family had been enslaved. But until recently, she didn't know that they were enslaved, and later sold, by Georgetown University.

She found out about that part of her history when she got a message from a genealogist for the Georgetown Memory Project, which is dedicated to finding the descendents of the 272 people sold by the university in 1838.

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?

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We asked, and you answered.

In a recent series we explored a different way of giving aid to people in poor countries. Instead of handing out seeds or a cow or job training, what if you just gave people cash and let them decide how to use it?

Then we put the call out to you, our audience: Was there ever a time when you got a little cash with no strings attached and it made a huge difference? Or when you wished for a tiny windfall to tackle a problem?

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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

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A recent study out of Philadelphia tracked kindergartners who were learning English and found that four years later there were major discrepancies between which groups of students had mastered the language.

Students whose home language was Spanish were considerably less likely to reach proficiency than any other subgroup. And, on the extreme end, Spanish speakers were almost half as likely as Chinese speakers to cross the proficiency threshold.

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."

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