Education

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

If you know anything about New Orleans public schools, you probably know this: Hurricane Katrina wiped them out and almost all the schools became privately run charters.

Many of those schools subscribed to the no excuses discipline model — the idea that if you crack down on slight misbehavior, you can prevent bigger issues from erupting.

Pankaj Rayamajhi hears something. Senioritis?

The director of school logistics and operations has a kind of sixth sense about that unique Spring affliction as he roams the hallways of Columbia Heights Education Campus, a public middle and high school in Washington, D.C.

Rayamajhi quickens his pace, walkie-talkie in hand, and turns a corner into a stairwell. Yep, senioritis. When they see him, the small group of students loitering on the stairs scatters back to class.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

When Mexican-American artist Nora Litz first talked with her students about immigration — she was shocked to hear how scared they were.

On a Saturday afternoon, 10 students gather at Genspace, a community lab in Brooklyn, to learn how to edit genes.

There's a recent graduate with a master's in plant biology, a high school student who started a synthetic biology club, a medical student, an eighth grader, and someone who works in pharmaceutical advertising.

"This is so cool to learn about; I hadn't studied biology since like ninth grade," says Ruthie Nachmany, one of the class participants. She had studied anthropology, visual arts, and environmental studies in college, but is now a software engineer.

Back when Stefani McCoy was 17, she felt isolated and depressed. Her mother was raising her solo while her father battled drug addiction. One day, she decided she was done with going to school. "No one could talk me out of it," says McCoy, who soon ended up living out of her car.

Eleven years later, she's in the Peace Corps, trying to help dropouts in Namibia in a similar situation.

As McCoy says, "They're me in African form."

What a week it's been for education news. Let's begin NPR Ed's weekly roundup as the week began, on Monday ...

DeVos talks choice in Indianapolis

It was expected to be an important speech, perhaps the unveiling of President Trump's long-awaited, $20 billion plan to expand school choice nationally. But that didn't happen.

Instead, when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took the stage in Indianapolis at the American Federation For Children's National Policy Summit, she talked philosophy.

On Friday, Hillary Clinton addressed the graduating class of her alma mater, Wellesley College.

She used the opportunity to wade into current politics and direct a few jokes at President Trump.

Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg returned to the university Thursday to give graduates a commencement address, filled with calls for building a connected world "where every single person has a sense of purpose."

The sudden resignation of an Obama appointee who oversaw student aid at the U.S. Department of Education has brought forth competing explanations.

If you fly into Haines, Alaska, you'll be on a prop plane so small that your pilot will call the roll.

"Melissa." Yup. "Mary." Yes. "Joseph?" Right here.

Just 2,500 people live in Haines — a small town in southeast Alaska surrounded by water. The scenery is incredible, with snowy mountains and lush green forest beyond. The city center is just a few blocks, with several bars, a few restaurants and a beautiful, award-winning library.

At 43 years old, Katina Johnson is planning her high school graduation party. It's been about thirty years since she dropped out of middle school when she found out she was pregnant.

Even before then, though, she'd never had a stable education. Her mother was addicted to drugs and moved her around a lot before she died when Johnson was just 12 years old. "That was the last time I even seen the inside of a school," she says.

There were few fireworks Wednesday as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified before a House appropriations subcommittee on the Trump administration's 2018 budget proposal. DeVos deflected much of the skepticism she received and continued to push the administration's support of school choice.

African-American students say they matriculated to Duke Divinity School expecting to enhance their calling with top-notch theological training at a prestigious program. But instead, they say, they entered a racial nightmare seemingly from another era, with students being called the N-word and other slurs in class, consistently receiving lower grades than their white colleagues.

More states than ever are providing publicly funded preschool. That's according to a new report from the researchers at the National Institute for Early Education Research, or NIEER, who have been tracking state preschool policies and programs since 2002.

Today, more Americans graduate high school and go on to college than ever before. But as the country becomes more diverse — the Census Bureau expects that by 2020 more than half of the nation's children will be part of a minority race or ethnic group — are colleges and universities ready to serve them?

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

What's the Consensus on Consent?

May 23, 2017

A recent paper from the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law on the nonconsensual removal of condoms — called stealthing — has pushed discussions on consent further into the national conversation. Saying yes or no to a sexual advance should be straightforward. How do we clarify the rules on sexual consent?

GUESTS

Harry Friedman has run a consultancy training entry-level retail workers in customer service and other basics for 35 years. But in all his years, he has not retrained retail workers for new skills.

"Nope; we do none of it," he says. "I don't know that anybody does any of it."

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

 

They say you can’t go home again. So maybe you should take a good long look before you leave?

That’s what seniors from Northside High School in Warner Robins did recently when they took a field trip to their old elementary and middle schools.

At Westside Elementary, students lined the halls to see the graduates. When Northside students walked in wearing their blue caps and gowns, students and teachers erupted.  At the head of the line is Alexis Monroy. This was her school.

John Amis / AP Photo

The first charter school in the United States opened up 25 years ago this fall. Since then, the idea of school choice has taken off. Charter schools can give students in struggling public schools more options, but only if those students apply to charter schools and get accepted. We’ll hear about how lotteries could address this in a feature from GPB’s Grant Blankenship.

Late Sunday and early Monday, Texas legislators advanced a version of the divisive "bathroom bill" regulating transgender students' restroom access and passed a law that would allow publicly funded adoption agencies to refuse to work with would-be parents based on religious objections.

The "bathroom bill" proposal, which would affect public schools, was introduced as an amendment to a bill about emergency procedures at schools. It passed the House on Sunday but still needs approval from the state Senate, which is expected to support it.

Dorothy, of Spring Hill, Fla., has a 15-year-old son with spina bifida and developmental delays, and her 13-year-old daughter is, she says, "mildly autistic." Neither was happy at public school.

"My son was in a lockdown classroom with gang members. It was a bad situation. I was afraid he was going to get hurt," Dorothy says. "My daughter was getting bullied because she spoke out of turn or would get upset easily. Twenty kids in a classroom was a lot for her."

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been a passionate proponent of expanding school choice, including private school vouchers and charter schools, and she has the clear backing of President Trump. But does the research justify her enthusiasm?

Experts say one single, overarching issue bedevils their efforts to study the impact of school choice programs. That is: It's hard to disentangle the performance of a school from the selection of its students.

Copyright 2017 Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations. To see more, visit Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It's graduation season. That means commencement addresses lead off our weekly education news roundup. Last week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faced boos at Bethune-Cookman University. This week, President Trump received a warmer welcome when he addressed cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Milwaukee has the nation's longest-running publicly funded voucher program.

For 27 years it has targeted African-American kids from low-income families, children who otherwise could not afford the tuition at a private or religious school.

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