Category Archives: Opinion

Raising Graduation Rates With Questionable Quick Fixes

Off the Books

What’s in a number?

To many, 81 percent is a success story. It’s the nation’s all-time-high rate for high school graduation in 2013, the most recent year of federal data.

But the NPR Ed Team and reporters from member stations around the country have been digging into that number and found it’s more complicated.

Not all the news here is good.

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This Summer, The Cafeteria Comes To The Kids

Kids this summer are eating up the "chow bus"

(LA Johnson/NPR)

“Chow bus! Chow bus! Chow bus!” chants Gunner Fischer, 3, as a custom-painted school bus rounds the corner and rumbles toward his apartment complex in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

About 21 million students nationwide eat free and reduced-price meals throughout the school year, but getting those same kids fed during the summer is a challenge. Only a fraction of those make it to schools or community centers for summer meals.

So some school districts are getting creative in the way they’re using USDA funds: Murfreesboro City Schools is taking the cafeteria to the kids. The district calls it the Combating Hunger on Wheels Bus — or the CHOW bus.

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The Truth Behind Your State’s High School Grad Rate

Image result for graduation rate

The national graduation rate is at an all-time high — 81 percent. It was such big news, President Obama touted it in this year’s State of the Union address.

That got us thinking: What’s the story behind that 81 percent?

Working with a team of reporters in 14 states, we set off to find out.

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Insurer Uses Personal Data To Predict Who Will Get Sick

Carol and John Iovine say the health coach their insurer assigned John after he had a torrent of grave health problems in 2014 has helped them get the medical care he still needs. And it's helped keep him out of the hospital.

(Carol and John Iovine say the health coach their insurer assigned John after he had a torrent of grave health problems in 2014 has helped them get the medical care he still needs. And it’s helped keep him out of the hospital.
Todd Bookman/WHYY)

The first thing out of John Iovine’s mouth is an apology.

“You got to forgive me if I don’t remember too much,” he says. “I had a stroke.”

Signs of that stroke are everywhere — the bed in the dining room, a shower installed in the pantry. John is thin, and sits in blue pajama pants in the wheelchair he uses to get around.

He may, however, have overstated his memory problems.

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Test Preppers, Take Note: Free SAT Study Tools Could Signal Sea Change

The College Board has announced a partnership with Khan Academy to make prep materials for the SAT college-entrance exam available free online.

(The College Board has announced a partnership with Khan Academy to make prep materials for the SAT college-entrance exam available free online.)
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The SAT is undergoing major changes for 2016.

And, as of today, students — for free — can tap into new online study prep tools fromKhan Academy, the online education nonprofit.

The partnership between Khan Academy and the College Board, which administers the SAT, could take a big bite out of the test prep-industrial complex; a multimillion dollar field that offers everything from $4,000 private tutoring courses to SAT prep shower curtains … for $28.99, plus shipping.

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What Happens In Vegas Includes Crowded, Struggling Schools

Students eat lunch at Robert Forbuss Elementary School in Las Vegas. The school, designed for 780 students, enrolls 1,230.

(Students eat lunch at Robert Forbuss Elementary School in Las Vegas. The school, designed for 780 students, enrolls 1,230.
Eric Westervelt/NPR)

Las Vegas is back, baby. After getting slammed by the Great Recession, the city today is seeing rising home sales, solid job growth and a record number of visitors in 2014.stru

But the economic rebound has exacerbated the city’s severe school overcrowding and left school administrators, lawmakers and parents scrambling.

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Colorado Pushes For Concealed Guns In K-12 Schools

Colorado educators take part in a concealed carry course in Englewood, Colo., on Nov. 8. The course is open to all state school employees. Participants who complete the training are eligible to apply for a permit to carry a handgun.

Patrick Neville was a 15-year-old sophomore at Columbine High School in 1999. He was on his way to a fast food lunch when the shooting started.

Two students, armed with guns and pipe bombs, had stormed the Colorado school, on their way to killing one teacher and 12 students — some were Neville’s friends.

Neville, now a Colorado state representative, says many of Columbine’s teachers and faculty acted heroically that day.

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Why The President Wants To Give Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars To Toddlers

Nikki Jones' preschool class at Porter Early Childhood Development Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Why does public school start at age 5?

Neuroscientists say the most important brain development begins at birth. Friedrich Froebel, who coined the term “kindergarten” in Germany in the mid-19th century, was among the first education thinkers to intuit this fact about the brain. His “child-gardens” were mixed-age classrooms of children from 3 to 7 years old, who learned through play.

When reformers such as Boston’s Elizabeth Peabody brought kindergarten to the United States, they followed Froebel’s mixed-age model. But when kindergartens became incorporated into public school systems, beginning in the late 19th century, the age cutoff was generally set higher, at age 5.

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From Potatoes To Salty Fries In School: Congress Tweaks Food Rules

When it comes to salty french fries or pizza served at lunch, schools may get more time to dial back sodium content, thanks to a provision in the federal spending bill headed for a vote on Capitol Hill.

The gargantuan budget bill that lawmakers on Capitol Hill are expected to vote on Thursday does more than dole out federal dollars to keep the government running.

It also tweaks federal nutrition rules.

For starters, the bill — aka, the 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill — includes a provision that will give school food directors more flexibility when it comes to adopting 100 percent whole grain items, such as pasta and biscuits, in school breakfast and lunch meals.

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New law requires California schools to stock epinephrine injectors for allergic children

A photograph of Natalie Giorgi rests at the State Capitol in April as her mother Joanne Giorgi came to support increased access to epinephrine auto-injectors in schools.

Cathy Owens was a nurse at Murrieta Valley High School in 1997 when she encountered a student in the throes of a severe allergic reaction, unable to breathe and fading fast. Owens called for an ambulance, but the teen was deteriorating too quickly. She made a split-second decision to use another student’s prescription epinephrine injector.

Her action was a breach of federal law, but a necessary one under the circumstances, she said. “That’s not a choice anyone should have to make, but I had to make it,” Owens said. “We didn’t want a child to die.”