Education Desk

Our Ideas series is exploring how innovation happens in education.

Anytime there's an innovation in education, often the first question anyone asks is, "Will it scale?"

Sure, you've managed to improve learning outcomes for one classroom, one school, one district. But if you can't reach 50,000 — or 5 million — students, the thinking goes, then it's not real or worthy.

Matt Candler is one person arguing the opposite. And the White House, among others, is listening.

First thing Friday morning, Bill Florence is getting his two kids, Chloe, 11, and Austen, 8, ready to head out the door.

"Did you guys brush your teeth?" he asks. "Yes," they moan.

Monday through Thursday, Chloe and Austen catch the bus to Peralta Trail Elementary School, but today, their dad scoots them into the family's silver Honda.

Diya Abdo, a professor at Guilford College, has launched Every Campus a Refuge, a project that aims to get every college and university campus to host one Syrian refugee family. As Guilford College makes plans for a refugee family to move on campus, North Carolina's governor is now one of a couple dozen who have said they don't want Syrian refugees entering their states, citing security reasons. Abdo and the college are moving forward with the program, despite requests from state legislators to rescind their offer to refugees.

For high school students looking to choose a college, grade point averages and test scores may weigh heavy on their minds. But campus atmosphere may not be far behind given recent demonstrations on college campuses across the country.

Students at the University of Missouri's flagship campus in Columbia were the forefront of a wave of protests over racist incidents and the reaction of school officials. For some high school students, those protests make racial relations factor highly in their college search.

How To Talk To Kids About Thanksgiving

Nov 25, 2015

You know the drill: Trace your hand, then add the details. Two feet, a beak, a single eyeball. Color it in, and voila! Hand becomes turkey.

You know the rest too: The Pilgrims fled England and landed on Plymouth Rock. The native people there, the Wampanoag, taught them to farm the land. In 1621, they sat down together for a thanksgiving feast, and we've been celebrating it ever since.

It's a lesson many remember from childhood, but the story has some problems.

Protests over racial discrimination on college campuses are leading to some swift responses and pledges of reform by college administrators. Even as the protests themselves appear to be quieting down ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, activists are pledging a prolonged fight.

A Mother Hangs Her Hopes On A New High School

Nov 24, 2015

Last year, when Jann Peña was in eighth grade at a public school and his little brother was in second grade at a charter school, the little brother got more homework.

That was just fine with Jann, an easygoing 14-year-old who passed his ample free time racing cars on his Xbox. But it was unacceptable to the boys' mother, Jovanka Anderson, a Dominican immigrant who wants to give her children a better life than she has.

After a long stalemate, a bipartisan team of congressional negotiators has agreed to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The law, currently known as No Child Left Behind, sends roughly $14 billion a year to schools that serve mostly low-income students.

Here's what we know about the rough agreement. First, annual testing — a major feature of NCLB — would remain for grades three through eight and at least once in high school. Schools would still have to test 95 percent of their students and report the results by race, income and special need.

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The two births that would change everything for Taylor Delhagen were due to occur 24 hours apart. If all went according to plan, his school would come into being one day, and his first child would arrive the next.

The baby boy's impending arrival had Delhagen contemplating the gravity of his role as a teacher opening a charter high school in one of New York City's poorest neighborhoods: Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Starting A High School From Scratch

Nov 22, 2015

To return to Brooklyn to open a high school, Melissa Jarvis-Cedeño had to make peace with her past.

She remembers the New York City borough as the place where relatives abused her as a young girl, where she lived with her alcoholic mother in a shelter, where she would have done anything to escape. When she finally did get out as a teenager, she vowed never to return.

Does It Pay To Pay Teachers $100,000?

Nov 19, 2015

We're brought up to believe our teachers are modern-day saints.

Just look at how we portray them in the movies and on TV. From Dead Poets Society's iconic Mr. Keating to resourceful LouAnne Johnson in Dangerous Minds, we reinforce time and again that teaching is a noble calling.

These teachers are heroes, we're told. It's hard to imagine them even thinking about money.

The number of international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities jumped last year — in a big way. It's up 10 percent, to roughly 975,000, according to a new report by the Institute of International Education and backed by the State Department.

In 2014-15, China was still the largest source of students with 31 percent of the total. India was in second place with nearly 14 percent. And Indian students were a big reason for the overall jump.

Heartland Community College

Heartland Community College in Normal is bracing for a potential faculty strike but the school's president intends to hold classes whether it happens or not.  

Massachusetts' Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to develop its own standardized test by the spring of 2017, instead of adopting a federally funded Common Core Standards Initiative test. But critics say the state board didn't go far enough.

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In yet another episode in the ongoing investigations of for-profit colleges, the U.S. Department of Education and California's attorney general say Corinthian Colleges consistently misled students enrolled at two campuses about their chances of getting a job.

Starting a new job is always tough — no matter the profession. But the first year for a new teacher can be brutal.

Research shows that roughly one teacher in 10 will quit by the end of that first year, and the toughest time — for many — is right now. In fact, this season is so famously hard on teachers that it even has a name ...

Here's a recent excerpt from the blog Love, Teach:

The University of Illinois at Springfield recently presented its Alumni Achievement Award to Wenguang Huang -- a Chinese-born writer, journalist and translator who earned his masters degree at UIS in public affairs reporting.

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Education Management Corporation will pay $95.5 million to settle allegations that it lied about its recruiting practices. The sum, announced Monday by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is the largest civil award to date in a case involving a for-profit college.

"Simply put," Duncan said, "EDMC wasn't interested in playing by the rules."

Here's what I remember about the beginning of the night: I'd planned to stay up late, for work. Later than usual, to watch President Obama's State of the Union address.

It was cold outside, January in D.C. A snowstorm was coming, and the digital antenna for my TV wasn't behaving. I was getting up often to adjust it.

I also remember the president had a lot of energy. It was 2014 and the economy was finally in shape. He wanted to make sure we knew.

About an hour into the speech, he got to the part about education, and said something that changed my life:

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Ask yourself this question: Were you aware of inequality growing up?

Your answer may depend in part on where you went to high school. Students at racially diverse schools, particularly black and Hispanic students, are more tuned in to injustice than students going to school mostly with kids that look like them.

This week, anti-racism demonstrations at the University of Missouri's flagship campus in Columbia have been front and center in the news. One of the newsmakers was a journalist covering the story who inadvertently became part of it.

Protests at the University of Missouri and other college campuses are forcing universities into uncomfortable discussions about race and diversity. One school got a head start.

Earlier this year, the University of Oklahoma came under intense pressure when a video showed two members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity singing a racist chant.

Now, students are comparing the reaction of their university with the recent controversies at Mizzou.

After anonymous threats targeting black students at the University of Missouri were posted online Tuesday evening, saying things like, "I'm going to shoot any black people tomorrow, so be ready," the fear on campus grew quickly.

Some black students were so scared that they left their dorms to stay with friends off campus. Others didn't go that far, but did stay inside and away from windows.

Our Ideas series is exploring how innovation happens in education.

Fourteen-year-old Yasemine Dursun is an aspiring entrepreneur. Her invention is called the Slapwrap, a braceletlike device for storing earbuds.

In a cacophonous hallway crowded with her classmates, she launches into her pitch:

"If you're washing your hands, water can get on your buds and damage them," the ninth-grader explains. "They can dangle and pick up dirt. This is kind of disgusting, but it can cause acne."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



The heated confrontations about race and equality at colleges and universities around the country have some commentators asking if today's culture of protest and political correctness on campus has gone too far.