Education Desk

Fair to say this was a brilliant day for Boston.

General Electric Co. announced on Wednesday that it will be moving its headquarters from Fairfield, Conn., to Boston, starting this summer.

That decision makes Boston the winner of an intense competition among dozens of cities — all hoping to become the hometown of one of the world's largest companies.

President Obama used his final State of the Union address Tuesday night to reflect on his legacy. But he also put forth some specific proposals for his remaining year in office. And the very first one was "helping students learn to write computer code."

In the Navajo culture, teachers are revered as "wisdom keepers," entrusted with the young to help them grow and learn. This is how Tia Tsosie Begay approaches her work as a fourth-grade teacher at a small public school on the outskirts of Tucson, Ariz.

For Navajos, says Begay, your identity is not just a name; it ties you to your ancestors, which in turn defines you as a person.

"My maternal clan is 'water's edge'; my paternal clan is 'water flows together,' " she explains. "Our healing power is through humor and laughter, and I try to bring that to my classroom."

Just because a toy's packaging says it's educational doesn't make it so. That's the finding from a new study in JAMA Pediatrics that found some toys being marketed as language promoters got in the way of learning.

Illinois Student Assistance Commission

When a police officer, firefighter or prison guard is killed or disabled in the line of duty, the state promises to provide their dependents with a college education. But the budget impasse has put that promise on hold, says Eric Zarnikow, director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

On any given episode of East Los High, the highly addictive teen soap on Hulu that just got a fourth season, you'll see love triangles and heartbreak, mean girls and bad boys, and some seriously skillful dancing. Think a Latino Degrassi meets Gossip Girl meets Glee.

Any classroom can get out of control from time to time. But one unique teaching method empowers teachers to stop behavior problems before they begin.

You can see No-Nonsense Nurturing, as it's called, firsthand at Druid Hills Academy in Charlotte, N.C.

"Your pencil is in your hand. Your voice is on zero. If you got the problem correct, you're following along and checking off the answer. If you got the problem incorrect, you are erasing it and correcting it on your paper."

Time to get together the transcripts, the test scores and put the final touches on those personal essays. It's college application season, again.

To a lot of students, the process seems wrapped in a shroud of mystery. What exactly happens when you send your application out into the unknown only to... wait?

Well, here's a glimpse behind the curtain at one school:

"What are some of the things that the monsters like to eat in this story?" teacher Marisa McGee asks a trio of girls sitting at her table.

McGee teaches kindergarten at Walker Jones Elementary in Washington, D.C. Today's lesson: a close reading of the book What Do Monsters Eat?

"They like to eat cake," says one girl.

"I noticed you answered in a complete sentence," McGee says. "Can you tell me something else?"

"Stinky socks!"

Illinois State Board of Education

State funding for public schools has remained stagnant or decreased for the past five years. Districts with low property values have no way to supplement that aid, leaving Illinois with one of the most inequitable funding scenarios in the nation.

But a plan approved by the State Board of Education on Wednesday would increase state funding to all but the wealthiest districts, by shifting about $300 million from special education into the general school funding formula. 

The first day back from winter break can be restless.

Many children are still coming down from the excitement of the holidays. Two unstructured weeks away from school — with strange food, rituals and relatives — can be overwhelming for many children, especially when it grinds to a halt after the new year and normality resumes.

But for students whose families are struggling in poverty, time away from school isn't an exciting blip on an otherwise calm school year. For them, it can be a crippling time of insecurity when it comes to food and shelter.

Here's a stark fact: Most American children spend more time consuming electronic media than they do in school.

According to Common Sense Media, tweens log 4 1/2 hours of screen time a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. For teens, it's even higher: nearly seven hours a day. And that doesn't include time spent using devices for school or in school.

In 2015, Khan Academy, which pioneered free, online video tutorials and lectures that have reached millions of students around the world, sought new ways of reaching new people.

It had already partnered with everyone from NASA to the Museum of Modern Art, and this past year Khan joined forces with the SAT's overlord, the College Board. The goal, in the parlance of our times, is to disrupt the billion-dollar test prep industry.

While most history courses start with the beginning of human civilization, roughly 10,000 years ago, Big History starts with the Big Bang. Humans don't get mentioned until halfway into the course. This is the second of three parts. Hear part 1.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Once you graduate from high school, you're ready for college. At least that's the theory. But the Illinois State Board of Education recently released data that shows for a significant number of students, that’s not the case. 

Diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are up around 30 percent compared with 20 years ago. These days, if a 2-year-old won't sit still for circle time in preschool, she's liable to be referred for evaluation, which can put her on track for early intervention and potentially a lifetime of medication.

Recess at Eagle Mountain Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas, looks much like recess anyplace else. Some kids run and squeal, others swing, while a half-dozen of their peers are bunched up on the slide.

Journey Orebaugh, a 6-year-old in an off-white princess dress, is playing family.

"You just get a bunch of people and just act like who you want to be," she says. Journey likes to play the mom.

We often hear about school districts that struggle with high poverty, low test scores and budget problems. But one district has faced all of these and achieved remarkable results.

In just over three years, Superintendent Tiffany Anderson, who oversees the Jennings School District in Jennings, a small city just outside St. Louis, has led a dramatic turnaround in one of the worst-performing systems in Missouri.

A year ago, NPR's Weekend Edition met four Howard University seniors. Ariel Alford, Taylor Davis, Kevin Peterman and Leighton Watson gave us a peek into life on the precipice of adulthood.

Now they've arrived.

Alford has spent the past few months as a student teacher in Washington, D.C., finishing her final requirement before getting her degree. Davis stayed in Washington too. Watson moved just a couple hours away, to Richmond, Va., where he works in finance.

It's getting harder and harder to find quality special education teachers, which is why 49 out of 50 states report shortages.

Why? It's a tough sell.

Even if you're up for the low pay and noisy classrooms, special education adds another challenge: crushing paperwork.

Claudio Sanchez is the senior member of the NPR Ed team, with more than 25 years on the education beat. We asked him for his list of the top stories he'll be watching in 2016.

1. The New Federal Education Law

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

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Jordan Shapiro drew a lot of attention this year with his four misconceptions about the future of education. As with much of his work, he tries to take a cattle prod to the conventional education narrative.

Podcasts would sound pretty bland without music. When done well, the medium's music cues are evocative and tone-setting. In rare cases, they can become iconic (think of the plinking chords that let you know you're listening to Serial). But for the most part, the music is meant to be invisible: You wouldn't sit down to listen to it or put it on in your car, and you're unlikely to ever know who composed it. So where does podcast music come from?

This is one of the most popular pieces that ran on NPR Ed in the past year. Here's a brief update:

In 2016, the "self-authoring" curriculum will be tested at a school in the United States for the first time. Community High School, in Swannanoa, N.C., will test the program on 150 students in grades 11 and 12. This is an "alternative school" that receives students who have struggled elsewhere, due in part to issues like family substance abuse and homelessness.

José Anzaldo is a bright, cheerful third-grader in Salinas, Calif. He loves school, he's a whiz at math, and, like lots of little boys his age, he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. He also entered the country illegally, and his parents are migrant farmworkers who harvest lettuce.

US CPSC

When students return to class in January, their school buildings will be required to have carbon monoxide alarms.  A new law goes into effect Jan. 1.

It has been a high-stakes year for high-stakes standardized tests.

The debate over renewing the big federal education law turned, in part, on whether annual testing would remain a federal mandate. Republicans initially said no, Democrats said yes. Ultimately the overhaul passed with tests still in place.

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

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CARRIE KAHN, HOST:

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