Education Desk

After nearly seven years in office, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will step down in December. The former head of Chicago Public Schools came to Washington back in 2009 with his friend — a newly-elected President Obama.

Duncan's tenure was remarkable for two reasons:

First, he got a lot done. A lot. The list is long, so, for the purposes of this short post, let's focus on perhaps the biggest thing he did, which was also one of the first things he did. In the summer of 2009, Duncan made this grand pronouncement:

It has been decades since an education secretary had as high a national political profile as the long-serving Arne Duncan, who famously accompanied President Obama from Chicago and even more famously likes to shoot hoops with the president.

Supporters note that Duncan has advocated passionately for narrowing the opportunity and achievement gaps in America's public schools, ending the "school to prison pipeline" and boosting pay for teachers who serve in high-poverty schools.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET.

Arne Duncan will step down as President Obama's education secretary in December, a White House official confirms to NPR.

Obama has selected Deputy Education Secretary John B. King Jr. to replace Duncan. King is a former New York State education commissioner. (President Obama is making a personnel announcement at 3:30 p.m. ET.)

Chicago Public Schools has lowered its official high school graduation rate following revelations that thousands of dropouts were being misclassified as transfers.

The official rate for 2014 was actually 66.3 percent, not 69.4 percent, officials said late Thursday. CPS also revised down the graduation rates for each year dating back to 2011.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Illinois students may have more schools to choose from in the near future.

Students who experience traumatic events while growing up in poor, turbulent neighborhoods could be considered disabled, a federal judge has ruled in a high-profile case involving the Compton, Calif., schools.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald, released on Wednesday, involves a class-action lawsuit filed against the Compton Unified School District. The plaintiffs argued that students who have experienced trauma are entitled to the same services and protections that schools must provide to traditionally disabled students.

Why do we humans like to play so much? Play sports, play tag, play the stock market, play duck, duck, goose? We love it all. And we're not the only ones. Dogs, cats, bears, even birds seem to like to play. What are we all doing? Is there a point to it all?

You can't blame Taylor Scobbie for being nervous. His team was a finalist for the $1 million Hult Prize.

The challenge — issued by the Clinton Global Initiative and the Hult Prize Foundation last September — was for undergraduates or MBA students to design a project that would provide quality education to 10 million children under age 6 in urban slums by 2020. There were six teams that made it through to the last round, chosen from more than 20,000 applicants.

TO: America's colleges and universities

FR: America's high school students

RE: Please make the college admissions process less daunting and more collaborative, creative, engaging and in tune with the Digital Age. Oh, and while you're at it, try to level the admissions playing field between rich and poor.

Fernando Aguilar has five kids and named his only son after his hero, Isaac Newton.

"I looked up to him and so does my son, and hopefully one day we can make contributions to society like he did," says Aguilar.

Isaac's in third grade at Herrera Elementary School in Houston. Aguilar thinks his 8-year-old is a smarty, just like the famous physicist: "I think he's going to be a lot smarter than I am."

But when the local school tested Isaac in kindergarten for the gifted and talented program, he didn't qualify.

Teachers, parents and politicians have long wrestled with the question:

How important is preschool?

A new answer comes in the form of a study — out of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. — that is as clear as it is controversial.

"The value of my education is priceless, but the value of my education is also not $140,000 in debt."

That was the statement of a Hunter College graduate with a master's degree, as quoted in the documentary Ivory Tower. And a new national poll suggests that thousands of graduates, especially younger graduates, agree with her.

ARW

This week, WUIS is airing four American RadioWorks hour-long radio documentaries focused on K-12 and higher education.

Ron Turiello's daughter, Grace, seemed unusually alert even as a newborn.

At 7 months or so, she showed an interest in categorizing objects: She'd take a drawing of an elephant in a picture book, say, and match it to a stuffed elephant and a realistic plastic elephant.

At 5 or 6 years old, when snorkeling with her family in Hawaii, she identified a passing fish correctly as a Heller's barracuda, then added, "Where are the rest? They usually travel in schools."

In Molly Pollak's second-floor Manhattan apartment, the spare bedroom is filled with decades of classroom memories.

"Those are all my high school yearbooks," Pollak says, pointing to a shelf stacked two books deep. "Those are my middle school yearbooks. There's more over here."

Even more shelves are stuffed with old lesson plans.

"I really need to throw them away," she admits.

You might think there would be a major clash between the party-hard reputation of the Greek system and the tranquility associated with Buddhism. But a group at San Diego State University says they're trying to strike a balance by starting a Buddhist fraternity and sorority.

When the Buddha attained enlightenment, he realized the Four Noble Truths that explain the human condition. And the first truth is that all life is suffering.

Most of the kids in the U.S. don't get much time to eat lunch. And by the time those kids wait in line and settle down to eat, many of them feel rushed.

And a recent study suggests that this time crunch may be undermining good nutrition at school.

Take a big room in Manhattan with more than 100 people, all of them fired up about education. Add some dramatic lighting and booming PA announcements, and you've got last week's New York Times Schools for Tomorrow conference. And everybody there, from university presidents to ed tech startups, was talking about how higher education is changing.

Here are some of the themes and ideas that stole the show.

UIS Senior Photographer Shannon O’Brien

Jamie Anderson grew up in the foster care system. She relies on her 4-thousand-dollar MAP grant to pay tuition at the University of Illinois Springfield. She says she works two jobs totaling 50 hours a week to cover living expenses.

What's the tiniest change you can think of to create the biggest improvement in someone's well-being?

That's the question at the heart of the first annual report by the new Social and Behavioral Sciences Team inside the White House.

This group of scientists has found that simple, small tweaks to existing official messaging can create huge effects on everything from savings to sustainability to fraud.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

teachlikeachampion.com

A teacher friend of mine shared THIS ARTICLE about the book "Teach Like a Champion 2.0" with no comment, but the style of teaching described in it is something I'm hearing about more and more, as the wave of the future, especially in charter schools.

If you have time, please read the blog post and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Is technology the best thing that ever happened to education? Or a silent killer of children's attention spans and love of learning?

Tap, Click, Read is a new book out this week that attempts to offer a third alternative. It tells the stories of educators and parents who are trying to develop media, and ways of interacting with that media, that encourage literacy and critical thinking skills in young children, while reducing inequity.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

The Obama Administration's long awaited, and slightly-different-than-planned College Scorecard is open ... for interpretation.

The new tool combines data from the Treasury and IRS with Department of Education records on more than 7,000 colleges and universities, going back 18 years. Anyone can access the data that shows how particular colleges are doing at enabling students to pay back loans and pay their bills.

Anyone, including our colleagues over at NPR's Planet Money team.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

If you made it past the headline, you're likely a student, concerned parent, teacher or, like me, a nerd nostalgist who enjoys basking in the distant glow of Homework Triumphs Past (second-grade report on Custer's Last Stand, nailed it!).

Whoever you are, you're surely hoping for some clarity in the loud, perennial debate over whether U.S. students are justifiably exhausted and nervous from too much homework — even though some international comparisons suggest they're sitting comfortably at the average.

PARCC Parsed

Sep 18, 2015
Illinois State Board of Education

News director Sean Crawford quizzes me about what the just-released preliminary PARCC scores do -- and do not -- say about Illinois students.

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