Education Desk

More and more colleges and universities are allowing students to choose their own gender pronouns, meaning instead of just "he" and "she," the options now include pronouns like "ze," which are intended to be gender neutral.

Harvard is one of the universities that made the change official this year. Now, undergraduate students have a variety of pronouns to choose from when they register.

University of Missouri football players have pledged to go on strike until university President Tim Wolfe resigns. They're joining several other student groups criticizing the way he has handled a string of racially charged incidents. Koran Addo, a reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, explains the situation.

Who doesn't love a class clown? That perfectly timed joke about the ancient Greek poet looking nothing like Homer Simpson is fun for everyone. Unless you're the teacher ... trying to teach a lesson about the Odyssey.

As a teacher, the class clown is often your nemesis. I know this from experience: I taught ninth grade last school year.

They derail lessons, steal the spotlight and, to make matters worse, sometimes they're actually funny. It's not easy enforcing class rules when you're laughing.

Many American parents face a tug of war over trying to save enough for retirement and saving for college.

Some, like Lisa Carey, a 44-year-old high school history teacher in Tampa, Fla., and her husband, Peter, a minister, haven't yet started saving for their three kids' college education. (Carey joined NPR's Your Money and Your Life Facebook group. If you're on Facebook, you can join the group, too.)

Ryan Michalesko

VICE News has published an investigation of American universities with ties to the military, police, and intelligence communities. Southern Illinois University in Carbondale ranked number 23, due to the number of alums who work in “top secret” jobs. The amount of funding SIU receives from national security and defense agencies was another factor.

They're hard.

At least, that was the rep on new tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards that millions of U.S. kids took last spring. Now you can be the judge.

There are now a slew of actual math and English Language Arts questions online — searchable — from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — better know as PARCC. You can also see some student responses and guidance on how they were scored.

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A Story Behind Every Backpack

Nov 5, 2015

This week we reported on the history of the school backpack, and it got a lot of you talking. If you missed the post, check it out here.

It turns out that most backpacks come with a story, and we wanted to hear some of those stories.

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The Illinois State Board of Education is inviting the public to help set standards for school safety. Below is the board's press release. Note that an email address at the end provides a way to share your comment if you can't attend a hearing.

Voters in Mississippi have rejected a citizen-led constitutional amendment that would have increased funding for public education. The public schools in the poorest state in the nation have been underfunded and underperforming for years.

Initiative 42 sought to change the state constitution by guaranteeing an "adequate and efficient system of public schools," through judicial oversight of legislative spending decisions.

Illinois Report Card

The Springfield school district received good news late last week when graduation rates were announced through the Illinois Report Card. All three District 186 high schools saw their graduation rate jump by at least 7 percentage points in 2015, and Superintendent Jennifer Gill is pretty happy about that.

The federal Department of Education has sent a letter to a Palatine high school inviting school officials to enter negotiations on arrangements where  a transgender female student can change clothes for PE and athletics. The DOE warned the Palatine school that the current arrangement violates Title IX. 

Give A Donation, Ask For Naming Rights

Nov 3, 2015

Back in July, Joan Weill, the wife of Citigroup billionaire Sandy Weill, announced that they would donate $20 million to a small, cash-strapped school called Paul Smith's College in New York's Adirondack Mountains with one big string attached: She insisted that the school would have to be renamed in her honor, to be known forever as Joan Weill-Paul Smith's College.

"I got a lot of wonderful letters that were sent to me personally by alums and students and of course members of the faculty and the board, understanding why this was happening," Weill says.

Our Ideas series is exploring how innovation happens in education.

As one of the biggest, most successful tech companies, Google can hire pretty much anyone it wants.

Accordingly, the company tends to favor Ph.D.s from Stanford and MIT. But, it has just partnered with a for-profit company called General Assembly to offer a series of short, noncredit courses for people who want to learn how to build applications for Android, Google's mobile platform. Short, as in just 12 weeks from novice to employable.

From El Salvador to Lebanon to Nepal, NPR has been exploring the lives of 15-year-old girls around the world. But what's it like to be 15 in the U.S.? To find out, NPR's Michel Martin spoke with three sophomore girls at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md.

Our Tools of the Trade series is exploring some of the icons of schools and education.

My editor, Steve Drummond, isn't that old of a guy. He's from Michigan — Wayne Memorial High School, class of '79.

But when he starts talking about backpacks, he dips into a "back in my day" tone that makes you think of a creaky rocking chair and suspenders: "You know, Lee, when I was in school, no one had a backpack!

Jolene Ivey, Farajii Muhammad, and Ordale Allen join the Barbershop to discuss the video of the South Carolina student being disciplined by a deputy, Black Lives Matter interrupting a Clinton rally and news that processed meats are carcinogenic.

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Less than two years after being named Alabama's Teacher of the Year, Ann Marie Corgill resigned her post this week, citing her frustration with bureaucracy. After Corgill was moved from teaching second grade to fifth, she was told she wasn't qualified to teach fifth-graders.

In January, Corgill was named one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award. She is a 21-year teaching veteran whose story — and candid resignation letter — has made waves in the education community and beyond.

This week's viral videos of a Columbia, S.C., deputy's push-the-chair-over-and-drag-the-student arrest of a 16-year-old high school girl in her classroom has refocused attention on the expanding role of police in schools, "zero tolerance" discipline policies and the disproportionate punishment of minorities.

The world of children's lit has always traded in grisly topics — children's literature scholar Jerry Griswold deems "scariness" one of the five elemental themes of the genre.

Earlier this week, several dozen chefs from around the country gathered to hear words of wisdom from Tom Colicchio.

"Have fun with it," Colicchio, a celebrity chef and award-winning restaurateur, told them, adding, "Let your passion come through."

But this wasn't the next batch of hopefuls on Top Chef, the feisty cooking show on which he stars. We were in a Capitol Hill restaurant, and this was a new generation of lobbyists.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Schools that serve a large number of low-income children qualify for federal grants, called Title 1. Many schools use that money to provide extra reading and math teachers, to help needy kids catch up with their more privileged peers. But the state of Illinois is increasingly tapping into those funds to pay down the Teachers Retirement System’s pension liability. 

The school system losing the most money in this scheme is Springfield’s District 186. So I asked Larry McVey, coordinator of Springfield’s Title 1 programs, to explain how this happened.

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When West Baltimore's Renaissance Academy High School hired four African-American mentors earlier this year, student Jalone Carroll wanted nothing to do with them. He figured they would come "mess everything up, and then dip," or disappear.

"We didn't know how to take that type, you feel me," says Carroll. "Somebody that cares, somebody that really wants to see us succeed."

Awe ouens, zikhiphani daar?

That's South African slang for "Hey guys, what's up?"

We recently had a chance to find out what's up with the teens of South Africa.

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For the first time in 25 years, America's fourth- and eighth-graders are doing worse in math, at least according to The National Assessment of Educational Progress.

NAEP, also known as the Nation's Report Card, tests students in both grades every two years on math and reading ability. This year, math scores reversed a long, upward trend with both grades testing lower than they did in 2013.