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Cell Towers At Schools: Godsend Or God-Awful?

Jul 14, 2017

School districts — hard up for cash — are turning to an unlikely source of revenue: cell towers. The multistory metal giants are cropping up on school grounds in Chicago, Milpitas, Calif., Collier County, Fla. and many other places across the country.

The big reason: money. As education budgets dwindle, districts are forming partnerships with telecom companies to allow use of their land in exchange for some of the profits.

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Katie Atkinson / GPB News

Bicycles hang from the walls of a tiny room at Strong Tower Church while young boys move to their work stations. They pick up wrenches and wait for instruction.

 

These kids are part of Macon’s Learn and Earn bike program, where students are given a used bike and taught how to fix it up. After ten hours of repair work, they get to take their bike home.

The new federal education law is supposed to return to the states greater control over their public schools.

But judging from the mood recently at the annual conference of the Education Commission of the States, the states are anything but optimistic about the future, or about the new law.

Betsy DeVos has put the brakes on two Obama-era regulations aimed at protecting student borrowers. Beginning with two public hearings this week, one in Washington, D.C., on Monday and a second Wednesday in Dallas, the Education Department is asking stakeholders to go back to the starting line.

On Monday, speaker after speaker in favor of the rules expressed weariness at the reopening of a "negotiated rulemaking" process that took several years and much legal wrangling.

By the time my younger son is midway through third grade, I realize that his academic progress has stalled. He's stuck somewhere between kindergarten and first grade.

School is a struggle for him. He has a language-based learning disability, which affects how long it takes for him to process new information before he can respond.

We have safeguards — classroom accommodations and an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, a document required by law for students who receive special education — to keep him on track.

Except, that he isn't.

Our education system has this funny quirk of grouping kids by birth date — rather than, say, intellectual ability or achievement or interest.

But developmental pathways are as individual as kids themselves.

And so there's a perpetual back-and-forth about whether to put certain kids in school a grade behind or ahead of their actual age.

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When young people struggle through addiction or substance abuse, there's also the question of school. Getting behind academically can be detrimental to learning and future success, but traditional school can be tough for kids whose peer groups use drugs or alcohol and where treatment resources can be limited.

Hello and welcome to another edition of our weekly roundup of education news!

Department of Education sued by coalition of states

A Transgender Child Faces Growing Up

Jul 8, 2017

It's safe to say that Q Daily, who's 11, is savoring childhood. He is an avid climber of trees. A dancer and loves Michael Jackson. He treasures play. Adults, he laments, can be quite boring — particularly at parties.

"All that I think they do," says Q, "is sit around, talk and drink wine."

Q says he'd prefer not to grow up. But he is now on the cusp of middle school, adolescence and facing his changing body. And for a transgender child, this time of life is particularly complex.

Zachariah Ibrahim dreams of being a pilot. That's not so unusual for a 13-year-old kid. But not that long ago, Zachariah didn't have many dreams for the future.

Two young Nigerians helped give him hope again.

In 1978 Waymann Washington had two major things going for him: As a young man, he had his whole life in front of him. He'd also been granted a scholarship to go to college and play football. Two months into school, he dropped out.

Right now he's serving a six-year sentence at the Richland Correctional Institution in Mansfield, Ohio, for drug trafficking.

And at 59, he's found college again.

Elizabeth Tammi / GPB

 

Wesleyan College is known for its diversity. A fourth of their students are international, and over a third are minorities. But it hasn’t always been that way.

 

In fact, back in the early 1900s, the Ku Klux Klan had something of a presence in campus life. Students named classes in honor of the KKK and even wore hooded robes and nooses. But dr. Vivia Fowler, president of Wesleyan, says the school’s past does not reflect its future.

Attorneys general from Massachusetts, New York and 16 other states filed suit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her department Thursday, accusing DeVos of breaking federal law and giving free rein to for-profit colleges by rescinding the Borrower Defense Rule.

Summer Reading For Your Woke Kid

Jul 6, 2017

Social activist Innosanto Nagara wanted to find a fun book to read to his 2-year-old son that also talked about the importance of social justice.

He wasn't looking for the typical fiction written for children. Instead, he was looking for unique narratives — by writers of color and/or authors who can speak about social issues through their own experiences.

Nagara couldn't find any. So he wrote one.

When Kelly Barrales-Saylor was a new mom, she got a lot of children's books as gifts. Most were simple books about shapes, colors and letters. There were none about science — or math.

"My editorial brain lit up and said there must be a need for this," says Barrales-Saylor, who works as an editor for a publishing company outside Chicago.

Halfway across the world, Chris Ferrie was similarly unsatisfied.

When reading to his kids, Ferrie noticed that most books used animals to introduce new words. In today's world, that just didn't make sense to him.

They were teenage brothers. They had big dreams to be doctors. But there was no way it could happen. They were living in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war, studying in classrooms set up in tents.

"We thought we were forgotten," says Kamiar Alaei. But that was a long time ago. He's now 42 and an internationally recognized doctor.

Why can't kids today just work their way through college the way earlier generations did?

The answer to that question isn't psychology. It's math. A summer job just doesn't have the purchasing power it used to, especially when you compare it with the cost of college.

Let's take the example of a working-class student at a four-year public university who's getting no help from Mom and Dad. In 1981-'82, the average full cost to attend was $2,870. That's for tuition, fees and room and board.

Since NPR Ed first published this piece last year, it has become one of our most popular posts of all time. And since then, there has been a little anecdotal proof of concept for these parenting theories:

For the past three years, 74-year-old Alice Baker has come to the Macon Branch Library in Brooklyn almost every Thursday morning.

That's when the wildly popular Xbox bowling league meets. But Baker also has learned to quilt at the library and says quilting is now a regular part of her life.

The two programs are a small part of efforts in Brooklyn and other cities to expand offerings for older adults at libraries. What appeals to Baker is that she can attend activities for people her own age in a place that welcomes people of every age.

Fake news has been on Maggie Farley's mind further back than 2016 when President Trump brought the term into the vernacular.

Farley, a veteran journalist, says we've had fake news forever and that "people have always been trying to manipulate information for their own ends," but she calls what we're seeing now "Fake news with a capital F." In other words, extreme in its ambition for financial gain or political power.

"Before, the biggest concern was, 'Are people being confused by opinion; are people being tricked by spin?' " Now, Farley says, the stakes are much higher.

About exactly a year ago we brought you the story of Shawn Sheehan, Oklahoma's 2016 Teacher of the Year.

At the time, he and about 40 other educators were running for office in the state, wanting to make a change because, as Sheehan puts it, lawmakers weren't prioritizing education. Funding for schools in the state has been cut tremendously over the past decade and teachers in Oklahoma are some of the lowest paid in the country.

Hello and welcome to our weekly education news roundup.

DeVos "presses pause" on for-profit college regulation

Two weeks ago, we reported that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was rolling back the "gainful employment" rule intended to rein in for-profit colleges. On Friday, she took a further step back.

Summer Reading For The College-Bound

Jun 30, 2017

Madison Catrett, 18, grew up in south Georgia — in a town about 30 miles from Tallahassee. Her high school was mostly white, Christian, and conservative — a place "where education is not as important as football," says Catrett.

She's bound for Duke University in the fall — and she's a little nervous to go somewhere new, somewhere so different from her hometown.

Luckily, she and other Duke freshmen have a built-in conversation starter: the reading they've all been assigned — Richard Blanco's Prince of Los Cocuyos.

When Trayvon McKoy moved to Washington, D.C., from Maryland about two years ago, he'd never played drums before in his life. Then, when he enrolled at Ballou High School, he says he didn't have much choice.

"I didn't even want to be in the band. My parents forced me." They also played in the band at Ballou when they were students here. "And it's probably one of the best things that's probably ever happened to me," he says.

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