Youth & Education

Stories about education focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Youth & Education reporter, Kyle Stokes.

The grass is greener ... if you're a student in Detroit, looking across your school district's boundary with the neighboring Grosse Pointe public schools.

Nearly half of Detroit's students live in poverty; that means a family of four lives on roughly $24,000 a year — or less.

In Grosse Pointe, a narrow stretch of real estate nestled between Detroit and Lake St. Clair, just 7 percent of students live at or below the poverty line.

To recap, that's 49 percent vs. 7 percent. Neighbors.

As a new school year gets underway, the Common Core remains a partisan flashpoint, while Americans overall have serious concerns about the direction of our public education system. That's according to two new polls.

In a major victory for teachers unions in California, the state Supreme Court has upheld teacher tenure laws. By a 4-3 vote, a divided court decided not to hear Vergara vs. California, a case challenging state tenure laws.

In 1998 Oklahoma became one of only two states to offer universal preschool, and it's been one of the most closely watched experiments in the country.

Today, the vast majority of these programs are in public schools. The rest are run by child-care centers or Head Start, the federally funded early-childhood education program.

First in a three-part series.

When things heat up, they expand. And when that thing is the axle shaft to your drive train, you're going to have to make adjustments, or else.

Michael Guarraia kneels down next to a metal part that just popped off the rear axle. "OK guys, listen up," he tells his team. "The drive train broke again and we need to find a sustainable solution. This can't happen during the race."

The team members nod and furrow their brows. Some scratch their heads.

Native American students make up only 1.1 percent of the nation's high school population. And in college, the number is even smaller. More than any other ethnic or racial group, they're the least likely to have access to college prep or advanced placement courses. Many get little or no college counseling at all. In 1998, College Horizons, a small nonprofit based in New Mexico, set out to change that through five-day summer workshops on admissions, financial aid and the unique challenges they'll face on campus.

Want To Address Teachers' Biases? First, Talk About Race

Aug 12, 2016

As Ayana Coles gazes at the 20 teachers gathered in her classroom, she knows the conversation could get uncomfortable. And she's prepared.

"We are going to experience discomfort — well, we may or may not experience it — but if we have it that's OK," says Coles, a third-grade teacher at Eagle Creek Elementary School in Indianapolis.

Coles is black, one of just four teachers of color among Eagle Creek Elementary's 37 staff. Throughout last year she gathered co-workers in her classroom for after-school discussions about race.

A group of recent studies on technology in education, across a wide range of real-world settings, have come up far short of a ringing endorsement.

The studies include research on K-12 schools and higher ed, both blended learning and online, and show results ranging from mixed to negative. A deeper look into these reports gives a sense that, even as computers become ubiquitous in classrooms, there's a lot we still don't know — or at least that we're not doing to make them effective tools for learning.

First, a quick overview of the studies and their results:

How should schools best prepare kids to live and work in the second half of the 21st century?

In previous eras, the job of school was simple: Teach them math and reading skills. Have them learn some basic facts about the world.

Today the challenge is a lot different. Most people all over the world, even in the poorest countries, have much easier access to a calculator, a dictionary and great swaths of knowledge in their pockets.

Welcome to our sand box.

For months now, the NPR Ed Team has been playing with what we like to call "long listen" ideas — worthy stories that we can't tell in three or four minutes.

Toddlers make their fair share of noise. But they also have a lot of noise to contend with — a television blaring, siblings squabbling, a car radio blasting, grownups talking.

Amid all that clatter, toddlers must somehow piece together the meanings of individual words and start to form their own words and sentences.

Administrators at Phillips Exeter Academy acknowledge that the prep school failed to respond adequately when a student was accused of sexual assault, and was assigned an "act of penance" that included baking and delivering bread to the girl he allegedly assaulted.

Both our current president and the presumptive Democratic nominee have talked a lot about expanding early childhood education. President Obama has backed up his rhetoric by creating Preschool Development Grants.

Oregonians will vote on an initiative that aims to increase the state's high school graduation rate. The Oregon Secretary of State's office announced Thursday that supporters of IP 65 had gathered enough valid signatures for the measure to appear on the November ballot.

The school district of Freehold Borough, N.J., has a 32 percent poverty rate. It is fully surrounded by another school district, Freehold Township, which has a 5 percent poverty rate.

Jennifer LeBret-White

Native American dropout rates are nearly twice the national average.

A new certificate program at the University of Washington aims to improve outcomes for Native American students, by teaching educators better ways to connect with them and their heritage.

There's a reason Jose Luis Vilson's students learn in groups: He wants them to feel comfortable working with anyone in the classroom, something he's realized in his 11 years of teaching doesn't always come naturally.

"I don't really give students a chance to self-select until later on, when I feel like they can pretty much group with anybody," he says.

Most everyone knows someone adversely affected by student debt: More than 40 million Americans are shouldering a crippling $1.3 trillion in loans.

That burden is obstructing careers, families, dreams, employment and even retirement.

Uncle Sam and Wall Street have made lots of money off the crisis.

I step up to the counter at Willy's Cafe at Willamette High School in Eugene, Ore., and order a latte.

There's a powerful scent of fresh coffee in the air, and a group of juniors and seniors hover over a large espresso machine.

Carrie Gilbert, 17, shows how it's done: "You're going to want to steam the milk first," she explains. "Then once you have the coffee, dump it in and use the rest of the milk to fill the cup."

She hands over my order. Not bad.

Four guys walk into a diner.

One, in a plaid shirt, sells golf equipment online. His name is Chris Regan. Two — Eric Schiffhauer and Jordan Wagner — are midway through their Ph.D.'s at Johns Hopkins University.

And the other, Jebree Christian, is a recent high school graduate from West Baltimore. His arms are covered in tattoos, most of them commemorating someone he has lost.

Each Sunday, they gather here at Jimmy's on Baltimore's harbor.

Summer break for many students is a time to kick back, play outside, and hang out with friends. For a significant portion of public school students in the United States, however, the end of school also brings a familiar question—what's for lunch?

When Lily Shum was little, she dreaded speaking up in class. It wasn't because she didn't have anything interesting to say, or because she wasn't paying attention or didn't know the answer. She was just quiet.

"Every single report card that I ever had says, 'Lily needs to talk more. She is too quiet,' " recalls Shum, now an assistant director at Trevor Day School in Manhattan.

She doesn't want her students to feel the pressure to speak up that she felt.

"Why are traffic lights red, yellow and green?"

When a child asks you a question like this, you have a few options. You can shut her down with a "Just because." You can explain: "Red is for stop and green is for go." Or, you can turn the question back to her and help her figure out the answer with plenty of encouragement.

Ariel Van Cleave / KPLU

Growing up and finding ways to fit in can be hard for any kid, but it gets tougher when your mom or dad, sometimes both, are behind bars. Children who have an incarcerated parent tend to keep it a secret, which is a big burden.

That’s where Kids United by Incarceration comes in. It’s a summer camp for kids with a parent in prison, located in the Tahuya State Forest on the Hood Canal.

Curtis Cronn / Flickr

When Washington state’s legislature voted to reduce college tuition last year, it presented some families with a dilemma because they had bought into the state’s prepaid tuition program, known as Guaranteed Education Tuition, on the assumption that tuition would keep increasing. So the state has been offering penalty-free refunds since last September. 

After some 10,000 online tutorials in 10 years, Sal Khan still starts most days at his office desk in Silicon Valley, recording himself solving math problems for his Khan Academy YouTube channel.

"OK, let F of X equal A times X to the N plus," he says cheerfully as he begins his latest.

Khan Academy has helped millions of people around the world — perhaps hundreds of millions — learn math, science and other subjects for free.

A new report, out today, provides 186 pages of answers to one of the toughest questions in education:

What does it take to get preschool right?

Parents and politicians alike want to know. States are spending roughly $7 billion this year on early childhood education, despite the fact that there are more cautionary tales — like this one from Tennessee — than success stories.

The major advocacy group for charter schools is meeting this week in Nashville, and there's lots to celebrate.

What began with a single state law in Minnesota has spread to a national movement of nearly 6,800 schools, serving just under 3 million students.

But at its annual meeting, the National National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is also using the moment to call for a fresh look at how these innovative public schools are managed and how they're held accountable.

"My goal for this special session is to keep the schools open," said Sam Brownback, Republican governor of Kansas, talking about a high-stakes gathering today in Topeka.

He called lawmakers back from their vacations for a special session after the state's Supreme Court doubled-down on its demand that they make school funding more equitable across districts or risk a calamitous funding freeze.

"We cannot allow our children to be caught in a constitutional struggle between branches of government," Brownback said. But that's exactly what's happened.

The Problem With Teaching Preschool Teachers

Jun 22, 2016

The U.S. spends a lot of money on preschool — billions of dollars each year. When invested wisely, research suggests the costs are justified by significant returns to society, including savings from crimes not committed, welfare dollars not distributed, and taxes on higher earnings.

But a new report suggests many preschool programs aren't as good as they could (or should) be — because their teachers arrived on the job poorly trained.

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