Education Desk

Small town doesn't quite describe Bethune, Colo. It spans just 0.2 square miles and has a population of 237. There's a post office, but it's open only part time. There's not a single restaurant, and the closest big store is in Kansas.

That didn't stop Ailyn Marfil from moving to Bethune a couple of months ago. In fact, she thinks it's a pretty exciting place to live. "I was looking for speed and action, and so Bethune gave me speed and action. More than I expected," she says.

Just off the Old Dixie Highway in Northwest Georgia, a white building stands proudly on a hilltop.

"To me, it looks like a church," says Marian Coleman, who has taken care of this building for some 20 years. She stands out front, looking up at the gleaming paint, the big windows and the pointed roof.

It never was a church. Instead, it was a two-room schoolhouse.

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Courtesy of Pete Carney

Five years ago, Pete Carney and a friend wrote a little textbook and got it printed up at Kinko’s. Within a few months, it was adopted by the prestigious International Baccalaureate program. It’s now used in more than 200 schools, several colleges and universities, and is up for adoption by the Los Angeles school district and the state of Florida. That’s not bad for a guy with zero credentials in education.

Mark Noltner, who lives in suburban Chicago, heard about McTeacher's Nights when he found a flier in his daughter's backpack last year.

"There was a picture of Ronald McDonald [on the flier]," he says, and it was promoting the school fundraiser at a local McDonald's.

During McTeacher's Nights, teachers stand behind the counter at McDonald's, serving up food to their students who come in. At the end of the event, the school gets a cut of the night's sales.

As always, our NPR Ed inboxes are clogged with press releases about the latest amazeballs app or product. Like the following, edited to protect the guilty: unprecedented new DOODLEHICKY app optimized for iPhone® and Android™ smartphones that includes real-time monitoring of a child's learning progress. DOODLEHICKY is the tutoring program that fuses the most effective elements of personalized teaching with a fun and engaging iPad® and Android tablet-based experience for measurably improving student DOODLE performance.

College students can't miss the warnings these days about the risk of campus sexual assault, but increasingly, some students are also taking note of what they perceive as a different danger.

"Once you are accused, you're guilty," says Parker Oaks, one of several Boston University students stopped by NPR between classes. "We're living in a society where you're guilty before innocent now."

Xavier Adsera, another BU student, sounds a similar theme. "We used to not be fair to women on this issue," he says. "Now we're on the other extreme, not being fair to guys."

Hadia Durani is one of the cool girls at her school in Kabul. She's chatty and gets good grades, and when she grows up she wants to be president.

In class, Hadia is outgoing, but once she leaves the schoolyard, things are different. She says men and boys yell at her when she's walking to and from school. They tell her she should stay at home, and call her mean names, and when that happens, she just keeps her head down and ignores them.

"It will just start an argument," she shrugs. "And [the girls] get blamed."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Our Ideas series is exploring innovation in education.

It's 20-year-old Randall Lofton's third shot at college. He's already wiped out twice. Too much partying and basketball, he says, and not enough studying. "I didn't apply myself."

Lofton is now trying to balance a full-time job with three classes at community college. He's taking a mix of online and in-class work at Valencia College in Orlando, Fla.

Update on October 29, 2015 at 2pm EST: Teach for America reached out to Code Switch with comments on this post. We've updated this post with portions of their response that directly address criticisms raised below, and more broadly illuminate TFA's path forward.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET with details about partnering with colleges

Starting soon, students will be able to use federal loans to pay for certain coding boot camps, the immersive web development courses that promise to make students into programming experts in just a few months.

Meet the genius who can't get out of school: Patrick Awuah, a former Microsoft engineer who moved from the United States back to his native Ghana to establish the nation's first liberal arts college. The 50-year-old founder and president of Ashesi University College in Accra is one of 24 MacArthur Fellows for 2015 — an impressive roster of scientists, writers and artists who will each receive a $625,000 "genius grant.

Sheree Woods is sitting in her car in the parking lot of a mini-mall in a Los Angeles suburb, with the air conditioning blasting.

She's here for a huge sale.

Woods is a high school art teacher at Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, a big magnet school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Every year, like countless other teachers around the country, she digs deep into her own pocket for school supplies.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:, User: ShimerCollege

Shimer College was founded in 1853 and has existed in several different incarnations and locations around Illinois. It's now on the south side of Chicago, in a space it rents from the Illinois Institute of Technology. About 100 students attend, and they take courses that center around what's called the great-books curriculum. Students are expected to come to class ready to discuss, and the teachers are called facilitators, simply there to help move the discussion along. Classes never have more than 12 people.

The 13th annual Lincoln Legacy Lectures, presented by the University of Illinois Springfield, will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, October 15, 2015 in Brookens Auditorium, located on the lower level of Brookens Library at UIS.

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Copyright 2015 Chicago Public Radio. To see more, visit



Our Ideas series is exploring innovation in education.

Some version of this criticism has likely echoed since the rise of compulsory schooling during the Progressive era: Teachers tend to teach to the middle, leaving struggling students feeling lost and more advanced students bored.

Everyone too often gets the same books, material, homework. The same level of difficulty.

Many people have experienced the magic of a wonderful teacher, and we all know anecdotally that these instructors can change our lives. But what if a teacher and a student don't connect? How does that affect the education that child receives?

Is there a way to create a connection where there isn't one? And how might that change things, for teachers and students alike?

A debate over academic freedom of speech was ignited in summer 2014 when the University of Illinois rescinded a job offer to a professor over a controversial set of tweets about the Israel-Gaza conflict. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks with the professor, Steven Salaita, about his experience.

Schools tend to be the center of the community in small towns across America. That's probably never been more the case for Middletown, Calif., than right now.

Last month, when a wildfire destroyed more than half of the town in the mountains north of San Francisco, the schools were miraculously spared. They've since reopened and are offering a respite from the sad, day-to-day struggles many students and staff are facing.

"The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other."

James Garfield, the United States' 20th president, supposedly said this about one of his former professors, a legendary educator and the president of Williams College from 1836 to 1872. It captures what feels like a ground truth in education: It's impossible to improve on the enduring value of a personal, one-on-one relationship between a student and a great teacher.

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On Campus, Older Faculty Keep On Keepin' On

Oct 9, 2015

Ken Nickerson could have retired from his job as a professor of biological sciences at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln 10 years ago, when he turned 62.

He could have retired five years ago, when the university offered faculty a year's salary to step down as part of a buyout to encourage more of them to leave.

He could have retired last year, when, in yet another buyout offer, administrators dangled the equivalent of 90 percent of one full year's salary in front of faculty who would finally agree to go.

But Nickerson stayed.

Officials at Northern Arizona University say a suspect is in custody following a shooting at the campus of the Flagstaff school in the early hours of Friday morning. One person was killed; three other victims are in the hospital.

"The first call of shots fired came in at 1:20 a.m.," the school says via Facebook. It adds that the campus is not on lockdown.

All of the victims are students; some were shot multiple times, police say.

Update at 9:30 a.m. ET: Fraternity Says Its Members Were Involved

Parents who are uneasy about their own math skills often worry about how best to teach the subject to their kids.

Well ... there's an app for that. Tons of them, in fact. And a study published today in the journal Science suggests that at least one of them works pretty well for elementary school children and math-anxious parents.

Courtesy of Ricca Louissaint

Illinois needs more college-educated workers and can't meet that goal with traditional students. Here's what some schools are doing to attract adult learners.