Lack Of Child Care Rating Systems Leaves Parents In A Bind

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There are rating systems for hospitals, nursing homes and doctors. So why is it so hard to compare providers of child care?

Part of the reason is that there are no nationally agreed-upon standards for what determines the quality of child care. The standards that do exist are formulated in each state, and they vary widely.

For example, some states require that child care workers have a teaching certificate. Others require certain college courses. Some have strict ratios of how many caregivers are required per child.

But all of these criteria are important in assessing the quality of a child care facility, says Susan Hibbard, director of Build Initiative, which works with states developing early childhood programs.

What’s needed, she says, is a tool that makes it easier for parents to evaluate and compare the child care options in their communities.

“So you know that if you see 3 stars out of 3 stars, your child is going to have teachers who are nurturing, have experience, understand child development and know how to work with children and help them thrive,” she says.


How A Happy School Can Help Students Succeed

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Every day at Weiner Elementary School starts with a dance party, usually to Best Day of My Life by American Authors — and that’s before the 7:50 a.m. bell even rings.

Then comes the morning assembly, where all 121 students and the staff gather for 20 minutes in the cafeteria of the school in Weiner, Ark. They sing songs and learn about an artist, a musician and an international city of the week.

They celebrate birthdays. A lucky student is crowned Student of the Day. And Pam Hogue makes it her goal to be an educator instead of a principal.

That assembly — and the many other things this school does to create a sense of community and happiness — is part of what experts call school climate.

“It’s a feeling in a building,” Hogue explains. “When you walk in here, it just feels right. It looks like a place where learning is happening.”

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Schools Hustle To Reach Kids Who Move With The Harvest, Not The School Year

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Teacher Sarah Ross and students (from left to right) Ximena, age 4, Yareli, age 3, and Kendra, age 2 at the Indiana Migrant Preschool Center, a free preschool for migrant children ages 2 to 5. The school teaches students in English and Spanish with the goal of preparing migrant children for kindergarten, wherever it may be.

Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting

If you’re carving a jack-o-lantern tonight, take a minute to think about who picked that pumpkin.

Maybe it was Anayeli Camacho, one of the country’s estimated 3 million migrant farm workers, and mother of two. For part of the year she rents a trailer on farmland in Oaktown, Indiana where she works in the fields, harvesting pumpkins and other crops.

But as the fall harvest comes to a close, she and her family will head back down south for the winter, following seasonal work. This is what Camacho has done for the last decade, traveling north and south, from Florida to Indiana, bringing her family, which now includes 4-year-old Ximena, along with her.

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After Nearly 2 Decades, Californians Revisit Ban On Bilingual Education

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Alice Callaghan watches as students practice their English at Las Familias Del Pueblos in Los Angeles.

Morgan Walker for NPR

Alice Callaghan has spent decades working with mostly Mexican and Guatemalan families out of a tiny office near Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. It doubles as a school for a few dozen 4- and 5-year-olds.

After the Pledge of Allegiance, children scamper to their seats to work on phonics exercises, blended words, vocabulary and reciting classroom rules. Not a word in Spanish is spoken, heard or written on the posters and word puzzles hanging on the walls, and many of the children’s names have been anglicized.

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Beyond The Pail: NPR Unpacks The History Of The Lunch Box

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A Spider-Man lunch box on duty at Payne Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

Kat Lonsdorf/NPR

Our Tools of the Trade series is exploring some of the icons of schools and education.

It was made of shiny, bright pink plastic with a Little Mermaid sticker on the front, and I carried it with me nearly every single day. My lunch box was one of my first prized possessions, a proud statement to everyone in my kindergarten bubble: “I love Ariel.”

(Oh, and it held my sandwich too.)

That clunky container served me well through first and second grade, until the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians hit theaters, and I needed — needed — the newest red plastic box with Pongo and Perdita on the front.

I know I’m not alone here — I bet you loved your first lunch box, too.

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How One University Used Big Data To Boost Graduation Rates

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Whenever you surf the Web, sophisticated algorithms are tracking where you go, comparing you with millions of other people. They’re trying to predict what you’ll do next: Apply for a credit card? Book a family vacation?

At least 40 percent of universities report that they’re trying some version of the same technology on their students, according to several recent surveys. It’s known as predictive analytics, and it can be used to either help or hurt students, says a new report from the New America Foundation.

The dangers come from the possibility of discrimination, invasions of privacy and groups of students being stigmatized, the authors, Manuela Ekowo and Iris Palmer, write. There can also be a lack of transparency when decision-making is turned over to an opaque computer program.

But a happy story cited in the report comes from Georgia State University, a large public university in Atlanta with more than 24,000 undergrads. Of those students, 60 percent are nonwhite, and many are from working-class and first-generation families.

As with many public universities, resources for student advising are limited. Large institutions tend to have staggering caseloads; a few years ago, GSU’s ratio was 700 students per adviser.

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