Education Desk

Federal law does not prohibit undocumented students from enrolling in college, but it does something nearly as effective, banning them from receiving government aid. In recent years, though, some undocumented students have stumbled upon a little-known, nonprofit online university that doesn't charge tuition and doesn't care about students' legal status.

High school graduation rates are on the rise across the country, except for one segment of the population: They've dropped dramatically for people in prison or jail who need to get their GED diplomas.

Since a new version of the General Education Development test came out last year, the pass rate for inmates has plummeted. Formerly, it was a multiple-choice test taken with a pencil. Not any longer: The test has joined the computer age, abandoning handwritten essays and instead requiring computer skills some inmates simply don't have.

One in 10 teachers will quit by the end of their first year — and getting through October and November is especially tough. Having someone to support you along the way can help.

Turns out there's a toolkit to help — as we wrote about this week. Thousands chimed in on Facebook and Twitter, and in the comments section. Here are some takeaways from the discussion.

The "disillusionment phase" goes by another name:

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

American students take a reported 112 standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and 12th grade. Yesterday, President Obama said that's too many.

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It was a story that brought the NPR interpreter to tears.

As part of our series on 15-year-old girls around the world, reporter Jason Beaubien and producer Rebecca Davis were looking for a 15-year-old Syrian refugee. The group World Vision helped lead them to Fatmeh, who lives with her family in a makeshift shelter on a farmer's land in Lebanon. Fatmeh wanted to tell her story: She used to live in a nice house, have a computer, loved going to school.

Deborah Ball realized years ago she had a problem.

It was around 1980. She'd been working as an elementary school teacher in East Lansing, Michigan for about five years. But she felt like she just wasn't getting any better at it.

"I felt like I was really thoughtful," she says. "I tried to make stuff make sense to them. I used examples and tried to connect them to their lives, but they would forget things as fast as I taught them. On Friday they could do it, on Monday they would have forgotten."

Today, President Obama and the Department of Education released a Testing Action Plan, calling on states to cut back on "unnecessary testing" that consumes "too much instructional time" and creates "undue stress for educators and students."

Girls just wanna get ahead. But society won't always let them.

In different parts of the world, girls might not be able to go to school, hold a political position — or even be born.

How much do you know about the state of the world's girls? Take this quiz, which highlights the latest stats from the World Bank, the U.N. and more, to find out.

When it comes to anti-bullying campaigns, Kortney Peagram has seen many: Wear this bracelet if you're not a bully, respond to something mean with something nice. They come and go like fads, she says:

"These awareness campaigns, if it's cheesy, they won't use it."

Peagram is a psychologist who works with more than 30 schools in Illinois to help teachers and students deal with bullying and confrontational behavior — in other words, what most kids would call drama.

Much of it is now online, where mercurial, youthful emotions fly at double-speed.

When I was 15, I hated math.

I still remember the day my 7th grade teacher called me up to the front of the entire class to solve an equation. She drew a huge triangle on the blackboard and wrote an "X" on the left side and "Y" on its base. She then looked at me sternly and said, "Miss Mistry, I want you to find X for me and you better make this quick."

Coby Burren was reading his textbook, sitting in geography class at Pearland High School near Houston, when he noticed a troubling caption. The 15-year-old quickly took a picture with his phone and sent it to his mother.

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

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Like many first-year teachers, Luisana Regidor has a lot on her mind. There are lesson plans to write and papers to grade as well as a dozen other things: evaluations, observations, fundraisers, class trips. It's overwhelming.

"Last Wednesday, I left here and I got in my car and I just cried," says Regidor, who teaches U.S. history at Schurz High School in Chicago. "Everything was hitting me at once."

Regidor, 31, says other teachers warned her that the first year could be rough, but in September she was full of ideas and energy.

Illinois State Board of Education


Members of Illinois' House Government Administration Committee hoped to grill Superintendent Tony Smith about expensive perks he gets on top of his $225,000 salary. But the invitation was declined by Board Chair James Meeks, who sent a letter to the committee saying he wanted to discuss the request with the school board. A day later at the state board’s meeting, Smith referred reporters to Meeks.

This month, NPR is shining a spotlight on 15-year-old girls — and we've invited our audience members to share their own stories about being 15.

The girls in our #15Girls series face big challenges and have big dreams. We've met girls so intimidated by the gang violence in El Salvador that they're afraid to leave home — and one girl who became a paramedic to help victims.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Timothy Killeen, president of the University of Illinois, joined top executives from eight other public colleges making the rounds of legislative leaders' offices at the statehouse yesterday in an effort to remind lawmakers that their campuses are hurting without state funds. Killeen said they were simply making the case for the future of Illinois.

 

ilga.gov

Top officials of the state board of education declined to appear before a House committee yesterday to answer questions about costly perks being paid to the board’s superintendent, Tony Smith. Smith was appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, and receives a stipend on top of his $225,000 salary. 

It's been a year since thousands of unaccompanied minors surged into the U.S., overwhelming some school districts. These children, many of whom don't speak English and have lived through violence, trauma and abuse, pose a serious challenge to schools. Some districts weren't ready. Oakland, Calif., was.

It was spring of 2014, well before the headlines had begun, when teachers at Oakland Unified realized something was wrong. A lot of students were missing class regularly — and not just playing hooky.

Of all the teachers in the U.S., only 2 percent are black and male. That news is bad enough. But it gets worse: Many of these men are leaving the profession.

Just last month, a new study found that the number of black teachers in the public schools of nine cities dropped between 2002 and 2012. In Washington, D.C., black teachers' share of the workforce dropped from 77 percent to 49 percent.

http://401kcalculator.org

Schools in Illinois’ neediest districts are being forced to spend federal funds to prop up the state’s Teacher Retirement System. 

Some new research suggests that ending America's devastating problems with school segregation is good for white kids, too. Over at NPR Ed, our colleague Anya Kamenetz describes these findings:

Recently a neighborhood in Brooklyn made national headlines for a fight over public schools. Lots of affluent, mainly white families have been moving into new condos in the waterfront area called DUMBO, and the local elementary school is getting overcrowded.

The city wants to redraw the zones in a way that would send kids from this predominantly white school to a nearby school where enrollment is over 90 percent black and Hispanic and which draws many of its students from a public housing project. Some parents on both sides of the line balked.

It used to be a given: When your kids reached school age, they'd strap on their backpacks and head for the neighborhood elementary school. Or, you'd pay a hefty tuition to send them to private school.

In the last two decades, a third option has emerged. Today, there are more than 6,000 charter schools in the country. And lately, they've been the subject of passionate and often acrimonious debate about the right way to fix public education in America.

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.

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

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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:

...an 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."

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