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Youth & Education

Stories and features about education in the Pacific Northwest. Including stories from Washington state and the United States. 

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Stanford physics and education professor Carl Wieman won a Nobel Prize for his innovative, break-through work in quantum mechanics. Wieman has since levered the prestige and power of that prize to call attention to the need to transform undergraduate teaching, especially science education.

This week saw a remarkable collision of free speech, toxic Internet culture and more, unfolding at one of the world's most prestigious universities.

At least 10 admitted Harvard students in the Class of 2021 had their admissions offers rescinded after a group exchange of racist and sexually offensive Facebook messages, the Harvard Crimson student newspaper reported this week.

Spencer Campbell spends much of his days walking the halls of Elk Ridge Middle School, checking breezeways for kids playing hooky, redirecting foot traffic between classes and checking on substitute teachers.

Campbell is one of two assistant principals at Elk Ridge, a school just south of Salt Lake City, Utah. It's his first year in the role and he looks the part. He's in his late 30s, sharply dressed, walks briskly and carries a walkie-talkie on his belt.

Angel Vazquez is 9 years old, has hearing loss in both ears, has trouble speaking and struggles to concentrate in class. He's a year behind in school, just learned how to read and is still learning English. For nearly two years, his mom, Angeles Garcia, tried to get him evaluated for special education at his elementary school in Houston.

Garcia sent the school three letters, pleading for an assessment. She even included medical documents describing some of his disabilities, but she says the school ignored her.

If you know anything about New Orleans public schools, you probably know this: Hurricane Katrina wiped them out and almost all the schools became privately run charters.

Many of those schools subscribed to the no excuses discipline model — the idea that if you crack down on slight misbehavior, you can prevent bigger issues from erupting.

Pankaj Rayamajhi hears something. Senioritis?

The director of school logistics and operations has a kind of sixth sense about that unique Spring affliction as he roams the hallways of Columbia Heights Education Campus, a public middle and high school in Washington, D.C.

Rayamajhi quickens his pace, walkie-talkie in hand, and turns a corner into a stairwell. Yep, senioritis. When they see him, the small group of students loitering on the stairs scatters back to class.

There were few fireworks Wednesday as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified before a House appropriations subcommittee on the Trump administration's 2018 budget proposal. DeVos deflected much of the skepticism she received and continued to push the administration's support of school choice.

Today, more Americans graduate high school and go on to college than ever before. But as the country becomes more diverse — the Census Bureau expects that by 2020 more than half of the nation's children will be part of a minority race or ethnic group — are colleges and universities ready to serve them?

Seattle City Council

As it becomes more expensive to live in Seattle, the racial and economic disparities in public schools become more glaring. Researchers from a Pacific Northwest think tank say the antidote may lie in updating Seattle’s zoning laws – the rules that determine what types of housing can be built.  

Dorothy, of Spring Hill, Fla., has a 15-year-old son with spina bifida and developmental delays, and her 13-year-old daughter is, she says, "mildly autistic." Neither was happy at public school.

"My son was in a lockdown classroom with gang members. It was a bad situation. I was afraid he was going to get hurt," Dorothy says. "My daughter was getting bullied because she spoke out of turn or would get upset easily. Twenty kids in a classroom was a lot for her."

Milwaukee has the nation's longest-running publicly funded voucher program.

For 27 years it has targeted African-American kids from low-income families, children who otherwise could not afford the tuition at a private or religious school.

When 18-year-old Hannah Vanderkooy feels extremely tired or anxious, she heads to a spacelike capsule for a nap — during school. Like many teens struggling to get good grades and maybe even a college scholarship, Vanderkooy doesn't get enough sleep.

And she's not alone. Various studies indicate that chronically sleepy and stressed-out teenagers might be the new normal among U.S. adolescents who are competing for grades, colleges and, eventually, jobs.

Hello and welcome to another edition of NPR Ed's weekly national education news roundup!

DeVos heckled at Bethune-Cookman University

Wendy Robinson wants to make one thing very clear.

As the long-serving superintendent of Fort Wayne public schools, Indiana's largest district, she is not afraid of competition from private schools.

Read this article if you're having a rough day. This is a rare story about positive social change.

Updated at 1:45 p.m. ET

Betsy DeVos spoke through waves of boos and shouted protests during her commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University on Wednesday, delivering a celebratory address with what seemed at times to be grim-faced resolve.

Fifty thousand signatures on protest petitions. Calls on the president of the university to resign. People on Twitter saying they're mailing back their degrees.

Do black and white children who live in assisted or subsidized housing experience different life outcomes?

That question was at the center of a new study by Sandra Newman and C. Scott Holupka, two researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. They combed through federal data on households in public housing or those that received housing vouchers from the 1970s through the first decade of the 2000s.

When Ted Komada started teaching 14 years ago, he says he didn't know how to manage a classroom and was struggling to connect with students.

He noticed a couple of days after school that a group of kids would get together to play chess. "I said, 'I know how to play chess. Let me go show these kids how to do it.'"

So he went across the hall and did nothing, he says, but lose game after game. "And that's when I remember being like, 'Oh, there's knowing how the pieces move, and there's playing chess.'"

Well over 100 people gathered Saturday to show support after vandals broke into the Salish School of Spokane and scrawled racial slurs targeting Native Americans on the walls of a classroom.

Children between the ages of one and 11 attend the school, where they learn Salish—a language spoken among many Indian tribes in the Northwest, including the Colville, Kalispell, and the Spokane tribes.

The fastest growing Mariachi music program outside of Mexico is in Washington state. A high school Mariachi band from Wenatchee has an award winning director and they’ve won a few themselves.

Since the 18th century, Mariachi has been an integral part of Mexico’s music scene and most students here have Mexican roots. There aren’t many programs like this in the U.S.

In a move that's being called "bold" and "out of the blue," Indiana's Purdue University is acquiring the for-profit Kaplan University. In announcing the deal last week, Purdue President Mitch Daniels said it was designed to open the university up to a vast new pool of students nationwide.

In the hills of southern New Hampshire, there's a stately old bell atop the Academy Building at Phillips Exeter.

With each toll, it signals passing periods between classes. The sound of the bell — much like the rest of the sprawling prep school's campus — evokes centuries of tradition. But next year, the school is trying something new.

It's all happening in an inconspicuous wood-framed building: Kirtland House. Right now, Kirtland House is a girls' dorm, but a sign on the first-floor bathroom hints at the future. It reads: "gender-inclusive restroom."

Some of the nation's top researchers who've spent their careers studying early childhood education recently got together in Washington with one goal in mind: to cut through the fog of studies and the endless debates over the benefits of preschool.

They came away with one clear, strong message: Kids who attend public preschool programs are better prepared for kindergarten than kids who don't.

The Trump administration has said it wants to remove burdensome regulation, and on Monday it served up a taste of what that looks like when it comes to two aspects of food policy: school lunch and calorie labels on menus.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a plan to delay a mandate that would require schools to further reduce sodium levels in the meals they serve. In addition, Perdue wants to give the green light to schools that want to serve some grains that aren't whole-grain rich.

This week and next is a national rite of passage for stressed-out overachievers everywhere. Nearly 3 million high school students at 22,000 high schools will be sitting down to take their Advanced Placement exams.

Created by the nonprofit College Board in the 1950s, AP is to other high school courses what Whole Foods is to other supermarkets: a mark of the aspirational, a promise of higher standards and, occasionally, a more expensive alternative.

"The School" by Eric Frommer is licensed under CC by 2.0

Tacoma Public Schools, once labeled "dropout factories," posted record-high graduation rates last year that beat statewide averages.

That's according to a report released Friday by the nonprofit Foundation for Tacoma Students. The group formed in 2010, the year a dismal 55 percent of the city's students finished high school in four years.

Two years ago, when Amanda Gomez could not get financial aid for community college, she decided to enroll part time at El Paso Community College in Texas. This gave her time to work to pay for her courses.

Being a part-time student has its pros — mainly a lighter course load. But Gomez feels like she misses out on some important experiences, like being able to stay back after class to talk to her instructors, or study in libraries on campus.

She says the difference was notable when she took a semester as a full-time student.

Baltimore erupted in violence two years ago, after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died in police custody. The unrest was about more than Gray's death, though — it exposed deep-seated problems facing many of the city's young people: lack of jobs, deep poverty, rampant crime and deteriorating neighborhoods.

Now, Baltimore residents are assessing what, if anything, has changed in the city since Gray's death.