There are more than 7,000 colleges in the U.S., and 21.8 million students enrolled in them. That's potentially 21.8 million opinions about what makes a school "the best."
The penalty for a bad choice can be huge. The cost of a degree continues to soar, graduation rates vary widely from college to college, and a growing body of evidence suggests that picking a supposedly "top" school doesn't necessarily pay off later in life.
Something funny has happened to the familiar commencement address in the past 10 years. That something is YouTube. Steve Jobs' 2005 address at Stanford, to take just one example, has been viewed upwards of 20 million times.
Learning is something people, like other animals, do whenever our eyes are open. Education, though, is uniquely human, and right now it's at an unusual point of flux.
By some accounts, education is a $7 trillion global industry ripe for disruption. Others see it as almost a sacred pursuit — a means of nurturing developing minds while preserving tradition. Around the world, education means equal rights and opportunity. People risk their lives for it every day.
In Texas, it's playoff time for high school softball teams. While softball is one of the safest high school sports in the state, concussions remain a real risk for players — especially those who frequently field line drives from batters. That's partly why this year, fans and spectators can expect to see more girls wearing face masks than they have in the past.
If someone is outraged these days, they often blog about it, or post a tweet in righteous indignation. Parents urge children to use their words, and in the news business, we certainly believe in the power of words and information.
But you may wonder these days if some people confuse posting with taking action. Pretty or pungent rhetoric can grasp a few seconds of attention, then — just evaporate.
Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, black and white children still attend segregated schools in many parts of the country. Majority black schools are less likely to have good teachers, and kids there are more likely to be poor. That, experts say, is the single biggest obstacle to their academic success.
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's turn now to a significant moment in the life of this nation. Tomorrow will mark 60 years since the day the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the landmark school desegregation case, Brown versus Board of Education. Advocates hoped the suit would level the playing field for all students, but it would take years of court orders, protests and, in some cases, the National Guard for some school districts to stop deliberate enforced segregation.
Sylvia Mendez says the only reason she wanted to go to an all-white school in California's Westminster District in the 1940s was because of its beautiful playground. The school that she and other Latino students were forced to attend didn't have monkey bars or swings.
"I was 9 years old," she says. "I just thought my parents wanted us to go to the nice-looking school."
Editor's Note: This is a story about a high school band. It is a story that demands to be heard, even more so than read. Please click on the audio player, above, to listen. Audio will be available around 6:30 p.m. EDT.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. Michel Martin is away. Nigeria has been in the news a lot lately. That's since the militant Islamic organization Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls on April 15. Professed to be against Western education, Boko Haram took the girls away from their books and their teachers and have threatened to sell them as wives and slaves.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. Michel Martin is away. Our friends at All Things Considered have been collecting stories of moments when people's careers took off. It's called My Big Break.
They recently spoke to Dr. Sampson Davis who grew up in the rough parts of Newark, N.J. He talked about how doing a stint in juvie put his life in perspective.
The Kansas Board of Regents gave final approval Wednesday to a strict new policy on what employees may say on social media. Critics say the policy violates both the First Amendment and academic freedom, but school officials say providing faculty with more specific guidelines will actually bolster academic freedom on campus.
The controversial policy was triggered by an equally controversial tweet posted last September by David Guth, an associate journalism professor. Reacting to a lone gunman who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., he wrote:
Graduation Season? More like Disinvitation Season.
As students across the country prepare for pomp and circumstance, college and university administrators are grappling with a series of commencement speech boondoggles.
This year alone, nearly a dozen big-name commencement speakers — including the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — have been invited to speak at graduation ceremonies, only to withdraw or have their invitations rescinded in the wake of campus protests.
University of Illinois adjunct professor James Kilgore speaks to the U of I's Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday in Springfield. Kilgore's contract was not renewed after his criminal history came to light.
The teaching career of former radical James Kilgore remains in doubt. He says one of his contracts with the University of Illinois expires Thursday. But the Board of Trustees ended a meeting Wednesday without taking action on his case.
Kilgore was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a group best known for kidnapping Patty Hearst in 1974. He was convicted of murder for his role in a bank robbery the group carried out the next year.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration asked schools across the country to rethink how they discipline students. Now, instead of automatic suspensions and other tough punishments, more schools are considering alternatives.
Laura Isensee, of Houston Public Media, takes a look at one of those alternatives.
LAURA ISENSEE, BYLINE: Two teenage girls come into the assistant principal's office at the Academy of Choice in northwest Houston. They used to be friends. But now they're fighting. It's time for a serious sit-down.
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. It's commencement season. You might be headed to one this weekend. And while you're probably most concerned with seeing your loved one get that piece of paper, these days many students and faculty are showing new interest in who offers those often banal but still widely noted commencement remarks.
Dee Dee Duffy has been teaching in District 186 for 25 years. Monday she was honored as the 2014 Horace Mann Educator of the Year. Duffy is an Early Start Pre-Kindergarten teacher at the Early Learning Center.
Also, Nichole Heyen, principal of Lincoln Magnet Middle School, was named Administrator of the Year. She's been in District 186 for 14 years.
Both were honored at a luncheon ceremony.
The program has been in existence since 1998. An independent panel makes the selections.
An "Aloha Prom" was held in Oregon this past weekend, complete with leis and a huge punch bowl. Tailored for students with special needs, the dance was organized by the state's reigning teacher of the year.
Just a few years ago, the students didn't have a prom to go to.
Brett Bigham, who is the first special ed teacher to be named Oregon's teacher of the year, started the Special Needs Prom five years ago, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. This is Asian-American and Pacific Islander heritage month. That's a time set aside to acknowledge the contributions of people from these backgrounds to the bigger American story. Undeniably, when many Americans look for role models for educational achievement, many find them in Asian-American homes.
Harry Potter and The Hunger Games haven't been big hits for nothing. Lots of teens and adolescents still read quite a lot.
But a roundup of studies, put together by the nonprofit Common Sense Media, shows a clear decline over time. Nearly half of 17-year-olds say they read for pleasure no more than one or two times a year — if that.
The federal government has spent billions helping veterans get the training and education they need to re-enter the civilian workforce.
Despite the effort, the unemployment rate for vets remains higher than the national average. Aside from dealing with the psychological transition, veterans also have to navigate how to transfer their military skills into civilian ones.
So that's the picture in academic science, but we wanted to get a sense of whether the issues are similar in the science industries away from academia. To talk about that, we called on one of the highest-ranking women in the nuclear field. Her name is Maria Korsnick. She works for Exelon Nuclear, one of the largest power-generating companies in the U.S. She was the first woman in this country to hold the title of chief nuclear officer. I started by asking her to just explain what that title means.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Science has a gender problem. Although men and women tend to enter science in relatively equal numbers, women are vastly underrepresented at the top of the ladder. To help sort out why, we're joined by our NPR science correspondent Joe Palca, who's been looking into the apparent imbalance, especially in academic science. He joins me now to talk about what he's found. Hey, Joe.
Kansas lawmakers have passed a bill to make it easier to fire teachers. The legislation will take away some of the employment protections offered to teachers. Supporters say school administrators need the flexibility to remove teachers who aren't performing, but as Kansas Public Radio's Stephen Koranda reports, teachers argue this will allow them to be fired for unfair reasons.
In honor of college graduation season, we made a graph. It answers a few questions we had: What is the mix of bachelor's degrees awarded today, and how has the mix changed over the past several decades?
Hover over the graph to see how the popularity of each category changes over time. Click or tap to see a category individually.
House lawmakers in South Carolina have voted to slash funding for two of the state's largest public colleges in retaliation for the introduction of books with gay themes into the schools' freshman reading programs.