Anya Kamenetz | KGOU
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Anya Kamenetz

Anya Kamenetz is an education correspondent at NPR. She joined NPR in 2014, working as part of a new initiative to coordinate on-air and online coverage of learning. Since then the NPR Ed team has won a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for Innovation, and a 2015 National Award for Education Reporting for the multimedia national collaboration, the Grad Rates project.

Kamenetz is the author of several books. Her latest is The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life (PublicAffairs, 2018). Her previous books touched on student loans, innovations to address cost, quality, and access in higher education, and issues of assessment and excellence: Generation Debt; DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, and The Test.

Kamenetz covered technology, innovation, sustainability, and social entrepreneurship for five years as a staff writer for Fast Company magazine. She's contributed to The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York Magazine and Slate, and appeared in documentaries shown on PBS and CNN.

Huan Zhang is captain of the all-girl robotics team at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens. She and her teammate Vanessa Lin are firing up their robot for me. It looks a little bit like a milk crate on the go.

"It's going to take a couple minutes to set it up," Lin says. While we're waiting, Zhang tells me their rookie team made it to regional competition in Pennsylvania with this very robot, which, on cue, starts rolling around picking up plastic blocks with metal arms.

This week, NPR Ed is focusing on questions about why people play and how play relates to learning.

Imagine you're playing a computer game that asks you to design a poster for the school fair. You're fiddling with fonts, changing background colors and deciding what activity to feature: Will a basketball toss appeal to more people than a pie bake-off?

Why are so many low-income and minority kids getting second-class educations in the U.S.?

That question is at the center of the heated debate about teacher tenure. In New York today, a group of parents and advocates, led by former CNN and NBC anchor Campbell Brown, filed a suit challenging state laws that govern when teachers can be given tenure and how they can be fired once they have it.

As WNYC reported, Brown announced the suit on the steps of City Hall:

The University of Arkansas today released what it calls a "first ever" study exploring the relationship between charter school funding and student achievement.

Even if your grandpa didn't walk uphill to school both ways, or have to break the ice on the bucket before fetching a drink with the dipper, you probably have iconic images in your mind of the one-room schoolhouse. It's a storied piece of America's past dating back to the Colonial era.

Jackson Ellis will soon head to fourth grade. Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, he's been receiving publicly funded services since he was 15 months old. Jackson's mother, Rebecca Ellis, a single parent, has made education advocacy her career. She's fighting to make sure her son gets the help he needs at his Mandeville, Louisiana public school. That's always been an uphill battle. But, since the state adopted the Common Core State Standards, Ellis says, it's become even harder.

Jeff Hellmer is an accomplished jazz pianist who has taught music at the University of Texas at Austin for 27 years. He thinks of himself as more than a teacher, though: "What I would like to do with my teaching is be an ambassador for jazz."

This past spring, in what's become an increasingly common move, he brought his ambassadorship to a wider audience. He turned his popular introductory course, Jazz Appreciation, into a free 10-week online course.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We wanted to figure out why college costs have been rising so much, and Anya Kamenetz with the NPR Ed team joins me now to break down the numbers.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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.

Public preschool enrollment fell slightly last year, according to a report released today by researchers at Rutgers University.

About 9,000 fewer children attended public pre-K programs in 2013 than in 2012, the report from the university's National Institute for Early Education Research says. It's the first time since researchers began examining this issue in 2002 that the numbers have fallen.

There's plenty of anxiety in the U.S. over getting into a top college. But a new Gallup poll suggests that, later in life, it doesn't matter nearly as much as we think. In fact, when you ask college graduates whether they're "engaged" with their work or "thriving" in all aspects of their lives, their responses don't vary one bit whether they went to a prestigious college or not.

Pay attention to this piece. There's going to be a test at the end.

Did that trigger scary memories of the 10th grade? Or are you just curious how you'll measure up?

If the answer is "C: Either of the above," keep reading.

Tests have existed throughout the history of education. Today they're being used more than ever before — but not necessarily as designed.

Different types of tests are best for different purposes. Some help students learn better. Some are there to sort individuals. Others help us understand how a whole population is doing.

My first brush with professional journalism — and with violations of student privacy — came when I was a sophomore at Yale. It was 1999, and George W. Bush, a Yale alumnus, was running for president.

The big names in the growing education-technology industry gathered in Arizona this week.

The "Education Innovation Summit" styles itself the "Davos of ed-tech." Educators, philanthropists and political leaders like Jeb Bush rubbed elbows with the investors, venture capitalists, big companies like Microsoft and small companies hoping to get big. It's hosted by Arizona State University and GSV, a private equity firm.

America may have a shot at rejoining the world's most educated nations by 2025, according to a report released Monday by the Lumina Foundation.

The Indianapolis-based foundation's annual report finds some encouraging data to counter the familiar story of a nation that is famed for its colleges and universities but trails many other countries when it comes to the percentage of people with a degree beyond high school.

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